Back to basics

I SUCK …S-U-C-K-!

Everything I do is shit…. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G

I CANT DRAW!!

Ahhhh these are the wailings of a tantrumy (I made that word up obviously) four-year old AND of a frustrated, perhaps every so slightly insecure, forty something year old artist.  My darling husband puts up with this shit about once every six weeks or so.  He’s such a champion and always responds patiently (and somewhat robotically?) with;

No you don’t

No it’s not.  

And.. yes you can 

I know I CAN draw pretty good but sometimes things just don’t turn out the way I have them planned in my head and it can get pretty damn annoying.  The more frustrated I get the more I tend to over think and jump from one idea to the next and from one piece of work to another in the hope that somehow I will have a “break through” and something will work!  Consequently I end up with a LOT of unfinished pieces of crap!  I recently had a clear out of all these pieces out and pretty much filled an entire wheelie bin!  Anyway, all this rushing around in my head, and on paper, has meant that I haven’t really taken my time with something for ages.  So time to stop, slow down, go back to basics.

I wanted to go back to the basic graphite pencil skills I had learnt over the last decade and that I had somehow forgotten in the rush of getting stuff done/trying to create a masterpiece. Step one was finding a reference picture that I liked.  I came across this amazing image by Kyle La Mere.  (If anyone actually reads my blog they might be going hang on a minute, wasn’t she banging on about NOT using reference images last week and something about a potato?!).  Yes I was. And, yes, I am not a huge fan of using reference images directly, but when your confidence is shot to shit and all your creativity has been sucked out of you, it’s time to go right back to basics.  Using a good reference image is a great way for me to practice my skills and to get my confidence back and simply rediscover my love for drawing.  (And before anyone gets their knickers in a knot about “copying”; I am practicing, not creating something for sale and I am giving credit to the amazing photographer who took this photo, twice now!  I’d give credit to the model too but I don’t know who she is.)

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I think I’ve made it clear before that I struggle with hair and for that reason I purposely chose a model without much hair.  I honestly did not realise until I started that she didn’t have eyebrows though!  I often think my eyebrows (not my ACTUAL eyebrows but the eyebrows I draw) look at bit ‘stuck on’ and not part of the face.  I wasn’t purposely avoiding eyebrows in this instance it just worked out that way.

For this drawing I used the back side of some Daler Rowney Smooth Heavyweight (220gm) paper that I had.  I figure maybe I brought it overseas, or a million years ago, as it has a price tag of $29.80 which seems VERY reasonable!  It doesn’t say how many sheets of paper it is, but there are 16 left which make it even more reasonable!  I’ve run out of Arches and when I want to my local art store and couldn’t find any the owner informed me that a new company owns it and they have put the price up $15 and reduced the number of sheets in a pad!  CORPORATE BASTARDS!!!!!  Plus she only had 300gsm.  I brought one pad at $83 which my husband reliably pointed out is $6-$7 a sheet, so “I better not stuff it up”.  Thanks.  Perhaps I should go dumpster diving in to that wheelie bin full of drawing fails and see what paper I can salvage

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I actually quite like this Daler Rowney paper.  It definitely has more of a distinctive texture than the Arches paper. It give a bit of texture to the skin that I like, particularly around the eyes and eyelids.  It naturally gives that crepe-y look that skin has (or at least older skin).  The down side is that the texture is fairly uniform and distinctly horizontal which can look a bit unnatural.  In some areas where the skin is quite firm and taut across the bone like the cheeks or the forehead, it is more difficult to achieve the necessary smooth look with this paper.

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I agonised over how to draw her hair (I told you I was an over-thinker).   My philosophy is always to draw what you SEE rather than what you THINK you see or what you think you know.  Our brains are pretty adept at translating what our eyes see so that we understand it better.  When we see an eyeball we know it to be a sphere so we draw a circle.  But if you really look at it, the top part of they eye is concealed by the eyelid, so really, what you are often seeing, is the bottom three-quarter of a circle.  My point being draw what you see in front of you (three-quarters of a circle) not what you know it to be (a complete circle).  Anyway once again I digress and once again .. am going to contradict myself.

With the hair I did the opposite.  My brain could just not compute what my eyes were seeing.  So I kind of ignored what I saw and thought it’s shaven hair and shaven hair is just short little strokes.  So that’s what I did… lots of short little strokes bit different grades of graphite.  Again the Daler Rowney paper was actually good for this as it added to that sense of texture and roughness.

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I didn’t want to have just a head floating in space so I added the neck using a combination of Tombow Mono 4B and 6B graphite and 6B Staedtler Mars Lumograph black pencils  I have probably mentioned these Lumograph blacks before but they are my charcoal “substitute”. I just can’t deal with charcoal!  It’s messy, impossible to sharpen, and ahhhgg sends a control freak like me in to a tail spin.   Lumographs contain a higher proportion of carbon in the lead than graphite pencils. The carbon creates a matt black finish.  I tend to only use the 6B and the 8B versions as the 2B and 4B aren’t particularly dark.  They are also smudge-able (again not a real word I know) as you can see around the collar of her top.  In truth they are probably not as matt black or as smudge-able as charcoal but for me they are a perfect alternative.

So I am pretty happy with the end result. I feel like I am back in the groove. Maybe I should just stick to what I know and stop mucking around with those colour pencils!!

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Mr Potato Head

Remember as a kid how you could draw anything you wanted completely from imagination?  I was particularly fond of drawing five eyed green martins and weird dragon like creatures.  I didn’t need reference images.  It all came from imagination and probably looked nothing like a “real” martian or a “real” dragon but at seven years old I couldn’t have cared less.  As I got older my attention turned to fashionable ladies in exotic gowns and horses… lots of horses.  Again I didn’t need ‘inspiration’ or reference images to work from.  I just let my imagination do all the work.

Somewhere along the way I lost that ability to ‘imagine’ things.  These days I am fairly dependent upon having some kind of reference image or scene in front of me.  Maybe it’s because I’m less creative as an adult or maybe I just want my portraits to look like real people not aliens.

Or maybe this need for reference material is just be an elaborate rouse for me to justify spending hours browsing the internet.  Pinterest is of course my main source of inspiration and reference photos.  I must have thousands of images stored in there!  A few other places I like to go are:

  • www.vogue.com – best place for runway images, especially detailed shots.
  • www.theimpression.com – features the best backstage runway photographs.  (I think now they are starting to charge a membership fee to access some stuff)
  • www.models.com – I kind of stalk the new faces section for pictures of beautiful boys and girls (I’m very creepy I know).
  • www.zara.com – the Zara app has recently become one of my favourite places to search for interesting faces and fashion poses.  Their photos are generally on a white background and they use different angles and cropping.  While all their models are of course ‘beautiful’ they do have a range of faces it’s not always a sour- faced-pouty-lipped-blonde-Caucasian-20-year-olds (yawn).

 

I am not entirely comfortable with directly “copying” an image.  Sometimes I do this if I want to practice a particular skill or technique and don’t want the bother of coming up with my own image.  More often I try to create my own compositions by pulling different elements from different images and my own photographs together.  For example, for a face, I might take a nose from one image, eyes from another and a mouth from another for example.  I might change things or add things like longer eyelashes, freckles, makeup, jewellery or clothing, or maybe add extra ’embellishments’ like flowers, bugs, etc.  I put them together roughly in Photoshop and voila I have a “new” face.  I liken it to playing an advanced game of Mr Potato Head.

But just like in Mr Potato head I’ve managed to create some weird, messed up, looking faces!

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This odd-looking creature was a mash-up of one girl’s eyes, another’s nose, someone elses hair, someone’s ears and yet another’s mouth, all on a beautiful pearl collared jumper that I originally spied on Zara.

When I sketched it out I thought it looked fine. I thought I had everything nicely placed.  Foolishly I started with the collar as that was the part I was most excited to draw.  It took absolutely forever but turned out great!

Then I did the rest of her features. I can’t remember at what point I realised there was something weird about her face.  And yes I certainly believe the most beautiful faces are those that have something off kilter about them.  Like eyes to big or lips too large. This lady is, however, a bit too far off kilter.  There is something eerie about her that I like but then something a bit wrong too.

Her nose is too big and off centre.  Her ears are too big.  Her eyes maybe too big and her mouth too small?  Her forehead is too narrow and short.  Actually I think the right eye is smaller than the left?  Is the light source coming from the left or straight on?  Ahhhgg

Turban girl is also a “Mr Potato head” with different bits and pieces collected from different reference images.  This one worked a lot better and she looks much more natural.

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The Side Hustle – Hustle

Graphite pencil custom pet portrait

“The Side Hustle – Hustle” sounds like some kind of dance that Tina Turner would have been doing back in the seventies.  What I am actually referring to is how my side-hustle (aka being a “fashion illustrator”) has developed it’s own (more successful 😔) side-hustle; custom pet portraits.

I am not exactly sure how this came to be.  I think it started with a request to do a portrait commission for my friend, Kirsten, which then led me to make a listing for custom portraits on Etsy; which then led to a listing for custom pet portraits.

Seems that people much prefer portraits of their pets than they do of their family members or (human) friends!

Anyway here are the latest of my furry friends: Kimba and Lola.

(If you would like your very own custom pet portrait please check out my store on Etsy A3- $60 and A4 -$45)

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A sticky situation: More colour pencil mishaps

Graphite and colour pencil fashion illustration

I realise I am such a hypocrite, nay, more a liar liar pants on fire.  “I will never draw another smiley lady in a hat”… remember that!  Ha, ha, so what’s the first thing I choose to draw of my own free will… a chick in a hat!  To be fair it is a turban not a hat and I am utterly obsessed with turbans.  I’ve actually been asked to judge Fashions on the Field next month,(I know I can’t believe no one has figured out I don’t know anything about fashion yet either!) and it is expected that one wears a hat to such occasions.  I cannot justify the expense of buying a bit of pointless fluff to wear on my head that I will wear once and only once.  Turbans on the other hand really float my boat.  Turbans are a trend I can really get behind because with a turban I don’t even have to do my hair … did you hear me? I DONT HAVE TO DO MY HAIR! In fact I can see myself wearing a turban every single day.

So I have been searching obsessively online for a turban and they are everywhere and they are all so beautiful I decide I had to draw one.  A beautiful, bright, colour pencil one.

(WARNING: Expect to see plenty of work in progress photos this week.  I got me one of those fancy new Samsung phones with the top-notch camera in it.  To be fair, I don’t know exactly how to USE any of the fancy stuff  but it is nice and I feel like a proper blogger.)

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Random things

(Let me just start by apologising profusely for last weeks train wreck of a blog post.  This is what happens when you ask your husband to proof read something .. he just takes over and writes mean shit about people!)

I’m taking a bit of a break after all that Fashions on the Field business so thought I would share some things I did earlier this year.  These were graphite and colour pencil illustrations based on a some images from Zara.  I had planned to do a whole series of them but other stuff keeps coming up!

Both are available as prints (terribly unimaginative titles I know but I’m no good at naming my art!)

Blue-jeans“Blue Socks” – Graphite and colour pencil illustration

 

 

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“Red Shoes” – Graphite and colour pencil illustration

Fashions on the Field has been hijacked!!!

So you think YOU are sick of those Fashions on the Field drawings I am freakin’ bored witless!  It has taken every ounce of mental discipline to finish this last one.  To be fair, discipline, focus, being task oriented etc, are all traits that I seriously lack.  Anyway now it is finally finished and no one need read another blog post (at least from me) about fascinators, millinery, or whatever the fuck that shit they put on their head is called. (husband here: she doesn’t really mean that)

This last one nearly killed me. I have to admit I hated every second of it!  I feel a bit bad owning up to that. It feels a bit like artistic blasphemy.  Everything should be created with love, passion etc etc … In all honesty this one came from a place of frustration and desperation … JUST GET IT DONE.

Here she is; Courtney Moore the winner of the 2016 Myer Fashions on the Field event, completed in graphite, colour pencil and digital colouring.

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…and here are all the rest.  These 11 drawings are part of bigger plan / collaboration project.  Only time will tell what happens with that project.  If I never speak of them again you will know that it amounted to nothing and I wasted six months drawing smiling women in silly hats!  Never again! (husband here: she really does love the hats and the smiling women)

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So which one is my favourite?  Certainly Chloe Moo – 2013, was the crowd favourite, smashing my Instagram account.  I think I am most chuffed with Kristy Magillivary – 2008, the all black one, only because I could not fathom how to draw an all black outfit (nor how an all black outfit actually won) (husband here: she likes black! she wears loads of black I swear!).  I did a lot of it in Photoshop and it turned out exactly as I planned.

As my personal favourite, I am torn between Emily Hunter – 2015, and Angela Menz – 2011 (aka – vagina head).  (husband here again: it was me who said it looked like a vagina. It’s not her fault).  For both of these I ventured a lot further with colour pencil than I have previously and was pretty happy with the results. It has definitely inspired me to pursue colour pencils a bit more (oh and to buy $100 worth of new fancy Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils.)

For all my wanting to be a real/ professional artist at the beginning of the year this project was a stark reality check.  Maybe it’s not all  that it’s cracked up to be.  Maybe I don’t want to be a REAL artist after all  and I am truly okay with that.  I just want to draw what I want to draw,  how and when I want to draw it, with no external or internal pressure.

Creativity is something deep within me that I just have to get out (I’m sure my husband is going to read that and say …what like a giant 💩.. ewwww),  It doesn’t have to have a purpose or a meaning, it doesn’t have to “get likes”, it doesn’t even have to be that good at the end of the day I just have to do it.

(Husband here: she really is a nice person, sometimes she just lets shit come out that should remain in her head. I guess that’s why I love her. I apologise to anyone who has been offended)

Ha ha.. he hijacked my blog post and the fact that I spent $100 on colour pencils didn’t even raise an eyebrow!!

Crikey, I’ve lost my mojo!

"Emmi" - Colour and graphite pencil drawing (detail)

I often use this blog to give a bit of the back story to each of my drawings; where my inspiration comes from and how the illustrations came to be.  I’d love to have a great back story to this piece but .. well… there actually isn’t one   I started this drawing late last year when I had four or five unfinished drawing “failures” hanging about.  Failures is probably too harsher word but illustrations that just hadn’t come together and consequently I’d lost any desire to finish them.  I felt like I had completely lost my mojo.

After taking a bit of a break I decided that the best way to rebuild my confidence was by drawing something that I am comfortable with and that I know I do quite well.  Take the easy road!  A graphite pencil portrait of a pretty girl!

I normally do my works on A3 (297 x 420mm) Arches paper but for this one I needed more space so I busted out the rarely used A2 (420 x 594mm) paper.  I find A2 a bit too large and awkward to manage.  And when you have an A3 scanner it can be a complete bitch to scan A2 and match up the two halves seamlessly.

I started with the graphite pencil face and then the hands using my usual Tombow mono pencils.  Initially I wasn’t planning on doing anything other than the face and hands but since it was going along quite well and my confidence was up I decided to add some colour.  I have no idea why I chose to draw them in colour pencil I think it was just an intuitive thing at the time.   It didn’t even cross my mind that my last effort with colour pencil had been a little painful.

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(Now I am going to crap on about colour pencil for a while, so you can just skip to the end to see the final image if this is all a bit boring.)

I started with an underdrawing using complementary colours; green pencil for the red flowers, red pencil for the green leaves and purple pencil for the yellow flowers and buds.  With my last colour pencil drawing I had difficulty getting sharp, crisp, edges.  Once again the colour pencil queen, Carrie L Lewis, has come to my rescue with her conveniently titled “How to Draw Crisp Edges with Colored Pencils”.  Read her blog for a more comprehensive explanation but in short; mark the outline before you start shading and ‘draw a light outline with every colour you use on that area’.  Why didn’t I think of that!

I used my Prismacolor Premier pencils to outline the red flowers in Kelp Green and then shaded in the darker/shadow areas in the same green.  I outlined again in Crimson Red being careful to travel as exactly as possible along the initial green line.  I repeated the Crimson Red outline with each layer of colour I applied.  You’d think this would be a pretty straight forward and simple process but truthfully I got better at it the more I did and my last flowers look a hell of a lot better than the first couple.  It takes a bit of a steady hand to trace accurately over the line below each time.  The more accurately you can do it the more crisp the edge will be.  Again I added more shadow in Crimson Red and Scarlet Lake for the centre.

To be honest, I really only used three colours on the flowers.  I’m seriously starting to believe that the LESS colours you use the better.  Creating ‘red’ with only three colours (one of which is not even red!) is more effective that using six different colours.  Maybe that’s just me!  Maybe a more experienced artist uses a lot of different colours I don’t know! (Maybe the colour pencil companies are a scamming us with their box sets of 72 different colour pencils and in reality you only need 2 reds, 2 blues, 2 greens, 2 yellows, 2 browns and black and white?… conspiracy?)

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Flower-no2-v4.jpg(The top photo is one of the first flowers I did and the bottom photo the last one.  I think I got better!)

For the leaves and the yellow petals I followed the same process of tracing over the outline carefully with each colour I used.  It really did help me get a crisper, sharper, outline.  As with the red petals I continued to use a fairly limited palette starting with a complementary colour.

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In my last colour pencil piece I liked the stage where some white paper was still showing through.   I prefer this over pushing it to the limit with as many layers as possible and removing all signs of the white paper.   This piece does lends itself well to that ‘style’ as I imagine it is a white blouse with the flowers and leaves embroidered on top so naturally there may be some white fabric peaking through.

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Initially I had planned to add hair.  I struggle with hair a lot so I decided to leave it until the very end.  Now I kind of like her ‘hairless’.  I don’t know. What do you think?  Am I just being lazy!?

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George’s American Virgin

Graphite and digital art illustration

If you’ve been following my blog you’ll be aware that this year I am embarking on creating my own… how shall we call them…dream? imaginary? projects and clients.  Last week I finished my step by step smokey eye beauty illustration featuring the lovely Matilda from Maya Organic Beauty Therapy.  This week it’s… beer labels!.  Yes, beer labels.  A bit of jump I know from makeup to beer but I am nothing if not adaptable.

There is a bit of beery back story to this one.  My husband has been an avid home brewer since before we were married.  As he likes to remind me I knowingly and willingly married in to this lifestyle.  And I don’t even like beer… at all (which I remind him that he knowing and willingly married in to).

He recently introduced his friend, George, into this weird world of yeast, hops, conditioning, carbonation, gravity. mouth feel and fermentation (I have no idea what these terms mean, I have merely heard them enough to absorbed them in to my vocabulary).

In honour of George’s first brew they asked for a specially designed beer label.

The guys came up with the name “Maiden Voyage”.  Because it was George’s first brew: “Maiden” and because the ‘Brewery’ is a 1921 train carriage that sits in our backyard (long story – not relevant to this long story).

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The brief was annoyingly suprisingly specific: a hot chick wearing a train drivers cap with an American flag (in reference to this beer being an American Pale Ale).  And she had to have big boobs… naturally.

Miss Deadly Red is an English model who I first came across on Instagram @missdeadlyred.  As soon as I heard busty beer wench – she came to mind (I hope she’s not insulted by that).  The original image is based around a photograph from Miss Deadly Red’s Instagram account.  Mind you, agreement to the final image was struck only after SEVERAL drafts and there’s not much resemblance to Miss Deadly Red in the finished product.

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I ended up not going as “busty” as the boys would like.  But I did get a lot of the other elements they wanted in; the American flag in the background, the train-drivers cap; and she’s even sporting a vintage American Express Railway Company badge with her name “Georgie” and “01” (in reference to this being the first batch of Maiden Voyage).

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As this will ultimately be a beer label and really no bigger than 10cm x 10cm, the colours need to be quite strong and crisp.  I’ve gained a bit more confidence working with Photoshop after my last project so decided to try my hand a digital colouring again.  And here she is…FINAL-V2

I was under severe time pressure to get this finished before all the beer was drunk! and I only just made it!  If I had a bit more time there’s a couple of things I would fix.  My main problem is I feel like the top half of the picture dominates because the background and the cap are such strong colours.  I did end up deepening the colours on the denim overalls and the badge but I still think the bottom half is a little ‘soft’ in comparison to the top and gets a bit lost.

Also the skin colour is a bit off.  I am pretty woeful at matching or picking colours.  If I pick what I think is a good skin colour it is likely to end up being a weird green-grey shade.  I did discover that you can look up hex codes online for all sorts of things: skin. eye colour, denim!. I used www.color-hex.com.  It is a really helpful a shortcut.

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Overall the brewers were pretty happy with “Georgie” and I now have a list of about ten upcoming brews in need of labels!

Cheers 🍺🍺🍻🍻

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Beauty illustration – Perfecting the smokey eye

Graphite Pencil and digital art illustration of Matilda

Last week I completed my graphite illustration of Matilda.  You can read about it here.  This week it’s time to put my Photoshop skills to the test and see if I can perfect that old classic – the smokey eye.

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It’s pretty rare for me personally to go to the trouble of putting ANY makeup on these days, let alone taking half an hour to master a smokey eye look.  Now days it’s no makeup or my Homer Simpson makeup gun is set to whore.  Seriously I am that clueless about makeup!

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Fortunately, Emmi and the girls at Maya Organic Beauty Therapy know what they are doing and wrote me a step by step guide smokey eye tutorial.  With my guide in hand it was time to tackle Photoshop.

Into the Wormhole

Now I am only slightly more adept at Photoshop than I am at makeup application.  I have had Adobe Photoshop and a Wacom tablet and pen for about seven years but everything I’ve learnt has been through trial and error.  My skills are pretty basic but, to be honest, I have no desire to become a digital artist anyway.

I do occasionally watch a YouTube Photoshop tutorial but I either get bamboozled by the tech speak or, having the attention span of a gnat, tune out after about five minutes.  I have recently discovered Draw with Jazza who keeps it simple and to around 20 minutes per tutorial (I am yet to get past the 10 minute mark but that’s my issue not his! – New Years Resolution = learn to focus).

Photoshop is a wormhole.   I step in at 9am and then few moments later I am disturbed by a dull headache from being hunched over staring at a computer screen (without my glasses on), only to discover that it’s now 4pm!.  I sit back and look at what I’ve achieved and then….

LAYER – DELETE – LAYER – DELETE – LAYER – DELETE – LAYER – DELETE – LAYER – DELETE

….and here we are back where I started at 9am but for the addition of some blue eyes.

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The ability to remove all trace of what you’ve done is kind of what’s good and bad about Photoshop.  It is brilliant that if you mess something up, it’s not quite right or for whatever reason you don’t like it… voila…  you can just hit delete and in seconds remove all trace that it was ever there.  You can’t really do that with traditional art works.  Yeah you can erase it or paint over it but you can only do this so many times.  At some point you have to call time, there has to be an end, a finish point.  The paper won’t take any more erasing or any more layering of pencil.  Any more paint and things will just turn muddy brown.  There is a point where it is as good as its going to get and you have to stop.   With Photoshop…

LAYER – DELETE – LAYER – DELETE – LAYER – DELETE – LAYER – DELETE – LAYER – DELETE

And so panned out my first three days of trying to ‘makeup ‘ Matilda.  I’d work all day long only to get to 4pm to discover that I didn’t like it any more and in a moment of frustration delete everything.

Finally I gave myself an ultimatum.  This was it.  Last day.  Wherever I get to today that is it.  Let go of my perfectionist tendencies and call it finished.

web-final.jpgStep by Step

When I was a child I always wanted to be a graphic artist (and a vet, and a pilot, and an architect, and… you get the picture) but my parents “encouraged” me to study sciences, go university and get a “real” job.  I ended up as a police officer?!?.  I am not quite sure that was what my parents had planned!

Anyway I digress… I wanted to be a graphic artist.  I love designing layouts.  I can’t explain it but something fascinates me about layouts. I am a layout nerd.  Hence I came up with several different, increasingly complex versions for my final step by step tutorial.  And when I say complex I mean complex, there were arrows, connecting lines, different fonts, close-ups, colours, shapes …

In the end the most simple version seemed to be the most effective.

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Graphite Pencil and digital art illustration of MatildaI also have to say in retrospect, while it was not my intention, this has ended up a very similar layout to Kimberley McCone’s beauty illustration I mentioned in last week’s blog post.  I guess it must have stuck in my head.  So I herby gratefully and respectfully acknowledge the inspiration Kimberley’s works has given me and the amazing-ness of her talent!

This project was really just for my practice anyway and I have no intention of using it in any commercial sense.  (But hey if any makeup artists out there do want a collaboration, you know where to find me!)

Photo Credits 1/