Dienstag, 3. November 2015

Marf Challenge November 2015: Illustrated Typography

Hey there. It's November already and this month our theme is illustrated typography, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Create some artsy type!

Now I'm not an expert on typography or type design so I'll leave you with a few inspirational artists:

Teagan White is an illustrator and designer who's doing amazing nature inspired drawings.

Sean Freeman is simply making some crazy creative typography!

Personally, I have few knowledge about typography (as I already mentioned), but love illustrating letters.

Here a some examples of work I've previously done:

At the moment I'm trying to wrap up my magical creature ABC aka weekly drawing project and since my goal is to turn the whole thing into a book I've been thinking about what would work best for the cover. With the letters ABC being a quite prominent part of the title I decided to illustrate them similar to the magical creatures themselves.
Incidentally that fell together with this month's challenge, so this happened:

choosing an arrangement I like plus some scribbles.

Rough layout scribble

Bringing everything in the right position and deciding on some details and themes. 

Trying to translate the layout to a larger format with arough charcoal pencil sketch.

Switching to graphite pencil for defining the whole thing. (as you can see my drawing pad got roughed up a bit during transport when I moved out of my old apartment. I tried different paper for my drawings though and you can see the difference, so I've got to make do with a bit of krinkly paper for this. Take good care of your paper, people. I didn't, see what it got me.)  


The finished pencil drawing!

Plus digital colour!

Mittwoch, 2. September 2015

Marf Challenge September 2015: Things you find outside

This month's theme is 'Things you find outside' and the idea behind it is the following:

You go outside, find things, take them home and make pictures with them. Whether you take that literally and create collages or just get inspired and find a different way to incorporate your findings in your work is up to you.

Personally, I love to take a break from all the drawing and painting and just do something different instead that doesn't require me to worry about concepts and ideas and wether I get that one brush stroke right or not. While I frowned quite a bit on collages when I was younger (like three years ago), I like to be able to take things that are already pretty to begin with and 'just' find a way to bring them into a pattern or composition I find aesthetically pleasing. 

Somehow it's satisfying in a very meditative kind of way (It's probably similar to people who like tidying their rooms/workspaces to clear their minds. Which I'm starting to believe, I'm quite partial to, too. 15 year old me would have laughed.) and makes it possible to simply focus on how the different objects play off each other, achieving a good balance or interesting compositions. Without the pressure of getting the technical part right, I end up taking a closer look at forms and weights and all that basic stuff, I sometimes brush over in favour of a fancy idea or need for detail. I like to believe it's good practice once in a while (Trying to find a reasonable excuse for spending hours sitting on the floor and pushing dead leaves over a piece of paper.), so this will be my approach to this month's challenge.

To help you get a better idea of what's going to happen here's some inspirational images:

Yeah, honestly I might end up putting three objects on a wooden surface. woah.

Also, seriously take a look at these, in case you don't know them yet, because they are awesome and make you want to spend your whole life arranging stuff.
Which is is maybe a crude way to summarize image making, but whatever.

Okay, enough of this, challenge: start!


First of all, there's the 'going outside' thing. I'm somewhat of a hermit type, hiding away in my room, while occasionally glancing suspiciously out of the windows. There's life out there? Sounds fake.

(Also, hanging out on Tumblr way too much.)

Anyways, I've decided to pick up my camera this year again, which led to the habit of regularly going for extended walks and staring at that one tree for hours to finally get the freaking angle right. (yes, occasionally also hiding behind trees because who are all these potentially dangerous bipeds hovering all over the place?). It additionally means I'm being outside and keeping my eyes open. Which helps with seeing, obviously, but can lead to a new bird skull or pretty snail shell for your collection, too. Or pretty feathers, or leaves or twigs or anything, really. By now I'm a regular magpie. I see something shiny or dead on the path, stop dead in my tracks, pick it up and then either pocket it greedily or realize it's actually pretty disgusting and try to casually lose it again (ah no, I have not wanted this. I never touched this. You didn't see anything.).

Well then, I'm on my way finding pretty stuff now.
Pretty stuff and the occasional 6- or 8-legged pet.

Pretty stuff. Yes, it is.
Obviously this is a bit of a mess. I simply bagged everything I found outside that seemed remotely interesting, so now is a good time to pick out my favourites. (I didn't find any really cool (as in rare) stuff this time, but I believe you can make anything look pretty if you set your mind to it.) 
And then the games begin …

love those vertical parallels

also those horizontal parallels. I'm finding it difficult to find something to match the weight
of the curly bark in the bottom left corner.

What do you mean, my lines are allowed to cut the edge of the image?
Still, though. The pretty curly thing is heavy ...

Hm, yes. Photo conditions are currently less than ideal to put it mildly.

Ta-dah! Number one is alive!

Pretty sure, though there's another picture possible.

Hm. Not quite. Not really. A bit crowded.
Ah, better. Could have gone several different ways, too, though.

The second one! I could go on like this forever, really, trying out endless possibilities with the same few things. For this month's challenge this will have to be enough, though!

Mittwoch, 1. Juli 2015

Marf Challenge July 2015: Lines and Textures

Another month, another challenge. This time around we've been mostly inspired by Nokkasilis work with ink drawings combined with (watercolour) textures.
The contrast between clean lines and textures, whether used sparsely as highlights or covering larger spaces is super interesting and has of course lots of potential for variation, also thanks to the possibilities of digital textures. There's no need to stick to ink and watercolour, here. Create lines with pencil or brush or pen or your tongue and use whatever textures you find suitable!


Maybe it has to do with having re-read His dark Materials by Philip Pullman some time ago, but lately my mind has been kind of obsessed with stripping away reality or opening up the sky or whatever (also sewing together sky and earth and playing the harp on invisible sky strings. I have no idea. Brain does, what brain does.)
I also spent June practicing drawing hands, so it seemed fitting to combine those two things.
Most of my creative process might have involved wildly gesturing and positioning my hands.



So far, so good. I originally planned on creating the textures on a seperate piece of paper and combining everything digitally. Why, though, when the bristol paper can take a bit of watercolour?

So purple. again. what is it with me and purple?

It's a great time to go digital now. As you can see I completely ignored tonal values and colours when I used the watercolours, so that has to be done now. A time of great fun and creating masks follows. (Basically I use different layers of Hue/Saturation with masks to play around until I find a colour combination I like. Oh, and colour balance and selective colour and whatever Photoshop can offer me.)

There you go, it is done:

Freitag, 1. Mai 2015

Marf Challenge April 2015: Pastels

That will be 'chalk pastels' for me, but oil pastels or whatevers pastels you might fancy are just fine.

Alright, the last time I actually used chalk pastels for drawing was about two years ago for my life drawing class. It wasn't 'my thing' to say the least.
Then I stumbled upon Ashly Lovett's amazing children's book illustrations some time last year and thought that maybe I should give that old and dusty box of pastel chalks rotting on my shelf another try. That never happened, though 'pastels' made it on the list for future Marf Challenges and now it turns out the future is here and you'll have to stick with me for another round of 'I don't really know what I'm doing here, but I'll figure something out'.

First things first, I need a concept. Since I don't feel especially proficient with chalk pastels, I decide to go for something relatively simple. My ancient pastels are also chalk sticks as opposed to pastel pencils, so I don't want to go for too many details either (I'm not working on a large format).
Taking all self set limitations into consideration some of my older pictures come to my mind.

As you can see my initial thought was to go for a face peeking out of the surface of an overgrown lake (maybe a bit predatory?), which struck me as too boring, though. Alright, I wanted nothing complicated, but I was letting myself off the hook too easily here.
A change in perspective, then. I actually do a lot of planning while scribbling. At first I placed the figure in the centre of the composition because it seemed only natural to me before deciding to shove her into the left hand corner because 'Why not?'. (No, actually to work against my preprogrammed composition patterns. I really like going for very central compositions and decided consciously against it, which brought an ACEO card I had created for Maren's and mine advent calendar project 2 (?) years ago to mind.)
To me atmosphere is an essential part of planning an image. I need to know how it is supposed to feel. For this one I wanted an underwater image that felt 'safe'. No terror of drowning or anything, more tranquility, peace, and … safety. That was basically my leitmotif.

The next step was asking Google for reference images and creating a rough composing to use as some kind of guiding map.
It's amazing, I know.
My layout drawing is pretty amazing, too.

So, as I said before, I hadn't touched chalk pastels for some time (Uhm, years.) and that was before I new anything about anything and even less about painting or drawing or chalk pastels. I mostly remember smudging a lot. Some years later I decided against that and went for toned paper and, well, drawing. What really irritated me at first was that the colours at hand were all very saturated. If you know my work, you'll know I'm a friend of the monochromatic ('I'll learn that thing with the colours eventually' is right up there with 'Some day I will learn how to actually paint'), so being faced with … colors turned out a bit intimidating. But, what the heck, what's the worst that can happen?
Especially when it's about midnight, which is in my experience a great time for questionable decision. such as using purple for an underpainting. Or something.

Especially, when you come to the point when you seriously wonder why your picture is all purple. Wasn't it supposed to be green? What happened? Oh right, you used purple for the shadows. 

Adding more layers and more layers. Maybe you notice a decided to add a lot of light blue in placed that were  purple before. I actually didn't think pastel chalks were this forgiving, but they are. Nice surprises are the best surprises.

At this point I really liked the textures a markings that had developed and the light blue had turned out to be a great decision (my opinion). At this point I was even thinking of using pastel chalks more in the future. Maybe they go well with my acrylics/charcoal drawings? Something else to try out? 
So I was over the 'ugly stage' of the drawing and started to get excited again.

Until I scanned the whole thing. Nothing more frustrating than scanning something only to wonder what you actually wasted those last few hours of your life on? (Like mirroring your image and realizing  everything is just wrong. And then you can't unsee it. At least on screen. The original still looks fine. Or not. Depends.)

My good old pal Photoshop comes to rescue! Remember I sad atmosphere was important to me? Well, yeah, it's actually more important to me than colour schemes. I generally decide on one beforehand (at least when I plan on using colours otherwise tonal values are enough for me), but the great thing about personal artworks is that I don't have to stick to them when a different colour palette feels more appropriate. (Uhm, nice surprises …)
This one looks a lot warmer now, less like an underwater scene actually, more dreaming that drowning in a way. I also really like the purple shadows now. 

Okay, I really have to clean my scanner of chalk dust now.

Sonntag, 1. März 2015

Marf Challenge March 2015

Our official challenge title ended up being 'Experiments with scratching and printing' because Maren and me couldn't settle on a precise technique we wanted to try out. Originally we stumbled upon Santiago Caruso's ink&scratch work, then came across Jim Kay's amazing work for Patrick Ness' book A Monster Calls and finally, we never really used classic scratchboards.
Also, have you seen these cardboard etchings?

Basically this challenge is about getting mad with everything you can print and scratch upon. Whether you want to mess around with mono prints on cardboard just to scratch some crude marks in the thing or you'd rather go for that old scratchboard you once bought and never got around to use and then decide to cut it into a thousand pieces and make a creative mess of it in Photoshop, doesn't matter. Just try out something new and see what happens.
(Bonus points if you can get your cat to contribute some scratches …)

I'll keep you updated on the process, which will probably be more interesting than the final artwork.


So first off, I didn't own scratchboards or any tools especially meant for that purpose and I was pretty reluctant to go on a shopping spree for  'this one challenge', so I had to take a look at what I already had and how to make due with it.
So my first thought was, that if  I put a thick layer of gesso on cardboard and added either a layer of acrylics or ink, I should be able to work with that, right? Also, I could make scratching marks with anything sharp?

Look at that pro tool!

Right. Since this was supposed to be nothing more than a small test, I decided to scratch some fossil vignettes (kind of suits the technique), which worked rather well, although I had to take several breaks to keep my hand from complaining.
(For this use I preferred working with the acrylics layer, although ink works, too. Just maybe not that well … with a needle taped to an especially ugly pencil.)

With eight or so small drawing finished I decided to create some patterns in Photoshop. As you can see they're not actually seamlessly tileable. When I have minute or two I might take a look at how you actually do that …
Otherwise I'm super happy how they turned out, although it would have been faster and easier to achieve the same look by scratching acrylics of a plastic surface. (Like this)

So far so good. Next up would be a 'proper' illustration, or so I thought. The question wa ssimply, what I should do. Not too detailed because that would take ages and leaving enough room for textures and improvisation so I can experiment a bit without worrying too much about messing everything up.
My first idea was to go for an illustration loosely based on the image of having an albatross hanging from your neck. Yeah. It would have a part that involved monotype and a part that involved scratiching and it would all work out very neatly. I'm not quite sure anymore why it didn't, but you can see some very rough thumbnail sketches:

Also some sketches for the concept I ended up going with instead and something completely unrelated.
So the albatross idea stalled and somehow I remembered the W.B. Yeats poem 'The Cat and the Moon'. Or better, I didn't  really remember the poem as a whole, but the fact that it was somehow about how a cat's eyes change the same way as the moon changes form. Based on that I began my first scribbles.

Somehow I was mostly focused on the cats silhouette while being pretty sure about the general concept of making her eyes a crescent and a full moon. I toyed with including lunar phases, but it seemed silly, since it felt like stating the obvious (As in 'but it's already in the poem'.).
Instead I started to think more about tonal values an realized I could use them to make the cat silhouette either pop out or vanish by changing the values of the background. (I often make a whole lot of thumbnail sketches and end up using the first one anyway, so it was nice to see some real process!)

My sketch in format and with values added. I was really excited at this point with high hopes for the finished illustration. 
Unfortunately I didn't really know what I was doing during the process, so it was more a guessing and struggling and I might just do the picture again, just in a way I'm more comfortable with.  (why did I even do these test fossil vignettes? They're nice, but didn't really help my with this one.)
OKAY, we're not quite there yet, though, are we?

gessoing cardboard. still in a good mood.

The plan: applying a layer of dark acrylics I would take of again with a wire brush (I new that worked because I had done that before with another illustration), so I'd get a neutral grey texture for the cloud area. Then I'd monotype the sky and cat silhouette on the whole thing because there's the word 'printing' in the challenge name.

Well, my first mistake was adding graphite dust to the acrylics because I thought it might add some metallic shine to the colour. Well, I wasn't really wrong with that …

Incidentally I also didn't have my steel wire brush at home and the brass one was of course too soft, so look at this shiny polished graphite surface.
Right, not as planned, but nevermind. New Plan: add gesso with a spatula and make sure you get texture and the tonal value you need. Actually, I thought, having the graphite shine through at some places will probably look really neat!

The next step was adding the dark flats, so I looked for a glass slide I had lying around somewhere and sketched the rough form of the cat on one side so I could apply acrylics on the other. 
I then placed it on my textured cardboard thingy and stepped on it to apply pressure. I don't know what you're thinking of when you read 'mono type', but that's my version. (It's not super effective, but I get some nice textures, okay?)

Tell me that's not one top notch cat

Tools of choice

More of a cat. At this point I felt like I couldn't really do anything anymore and decided to go digital.  My former excitment was gone and I started praying to the almighty Photoshop.

Not saying the textures aren't nice, though.

And the final piece. Lots of layers, lots of colour corrections and colour schemes and I'm not completely unhappy, yet I can't stop thinking it might have turned out much better if I had chosen a differnt way of working ('wasted potential') comes to mind. WELL. I might really just do this all over because I seriously like the idea. And I did learn quite a bit about the material I'm working with. Which is the important bit for our challenges. 

Some more textures I really like!


Strictly speaking not part of the challenge anymore, but I really decided to do this illustration again from scratch. Which was totally worth it.