Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New England SCBWI Conference

Don't forget, registration opens today for the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference begin held in Fitchburg, MA on May 13, 14 and 15th. I'm so excited that this awesome conference is practically in my own backyard.

I'll be there all weekend. And on Sunday, I have the privilege of giving a two hour presentation with my friend, and very talented illustrator Carlyn Beccia entitled, "Digital Painting Duels." If you are familiar with Carlyn and her work, you know that she loves Corel Painter. I, on the other hand, am a Photoshop kind of gal.

Of course, we could spend the two hours fighting over which platform is the best. Which would be silly, because we all know Photoshop is WAY better. But seriously, both software packages have there own strengths and weaknesses, which is what we will be exploring during the course of our talk. Hopefully the audience will walk away with a better appreciation for both tools, as well as a few new tips and techniques they can take back to the studio with them. By the way, does anyone know where I can get a Photoshop t-shirt to wear?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Alfie Goes Gold!!

My in-laws are so sweet, when I told them that there were one million Alfie books in print, they wanted to mark the occasion. There is no equivalent to a gold record in the book world, but they did the next best thing. They presented me with a golden Alfie. Lots of people have gold records but I bet there is only one gold alligator. Yay Alfie!!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Updating my Portfolio Website

I spent a good part of last month with a ginormous* book called "HTML, XHTML, CSS for Dummies." And why was I dragging around a 10 pound computer manual? (Seriously this thing is over 1000 pages.) Because it's a new year and time to update ye ole website. I think the goal of any illustrator's website is to make it was easy as possible for potential clients to browse your work and determine if you are the right person for their project. I don't think I'm quite there yet but I think I'm moving in the right direction. You can see my new, and hopefully improved site at www.jemorris.com. I'm still tinkering with the layout, but here are the things on my wish list that I've accomplished so far...

1. Update the pieces in my portfolio
- My portfolio was pretty out of date, which is rather pathetic, considering that's my main source of advertising. So I went through and decided what sorts of work I would like to do in the future and tried to showcase those sorts of pieces. One of my resolutions this year is to review my portfolio the first of every month and cull out the weaker pieces. No more letting it go for 6+ months at a time!

2. Make the site more maintainable
- By changing most of the formatting over to CSS, I hope to be able to change the look and feel of the site just by tweeking the CSS files. At least that's the plan.

3. Make it more mobile friendly
- Another thing that I could do by putting the formatting in CSS files, I was able to create a style sheet for iPhones and another one to display on smaller tablet screens.

4. Add a licensing section
- I hope to expand this section soon but at least I have a place holder at the moment.

5. Have a way for folks to access individual images in my portfolio - Actually, I fixed this last time I updated my website. But it's a feature I was felt was important to keep. And something you might want to keep in mind if you are setting up your portfolio. A few versions back, I used frames to create my site and it was hard to bookmark a particular image or email a link to an image to someone.

So if you have time and want to let me know what you think, I'd appreciate any comments.

*BTW, did you know ginormous is a real word? Me neither. It's in the dictionary, who knew?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Alfie the Alligator T-Shirts Now Available!

Some folks have contacted me and said that their kids enjoy Alfie the Alligator so much that they would like an Alfie T-shirt. Thank you, thank you! As you can imagine, I was happy to oblige, so now you can get your very own Alfie the Alligator shirts (and coordinating coffee mugs.)

Monday, February 07, 2011

Coloring Pencil Drawings - Arthur Rackham Style

I thought it was time for another Photoshop tutorial. This tutorial will show how to color a drawing to give it an Arthur Rackham type feel. Now, before you say it, I know, I'm no Arthur Rackham. I just want to show how to give a drawing that aged sepia tone sort of look that he was known for.

The technique I'm going to use is very similar to the one I showed a while ago with Coloring Line Drawings in Photoshop, but with a few extra steps. So you might want to go back and take at look at that tutorial first if you are a Photoshop newbie.

This image started out as as a pencil drawing that I scanned into Photoshop. You could also start with a pen and ink drawing, charcoal, whatever you want. Below is exactly how it was scanned in, and I don't know if you can see it, but the whole image has a pinkish cast and lots of pencils smudges.

The smudges I'm going to leave, I think they will add to the feeling that I'm going for. But I want to get rid of that pinkish tint to the paper. So I click Image->Adjustments->Desaturate (or SHIFT-CTRL-U) That converts the image to greyscale.

For this technique you need to have the line drawing on a layer above the background layer. The way I do that is to create a copy of the background layer. You can either right click on the background layer and select "duplicate layer..." or you can drag the layer down to the little "new layer" icon right next to the trash bin. Rename this new layer, "Line Drawing". Now, go back to the Background level and select all (CTRL-A) and fill with a solid tan color. Your image won't look any different yet, but your layers window will look like this...

Click again on the "Line Drawing" layer and create a new adjustment layer (the little icon at the bottom of the layer window that looks like a black and white cookie.) We're going to create a "gradient map." Experiment a little with the gradients, you'll find that you can tinker with it in all sorts of ways to get lots of neat effects. You can see that I chose a gradient that goes from dark brown to white with an orange/brown color in the middle. This gives a warm, sepia tone to the drawing.

This might be a good time to make a backup of your file just in case you want to get back to this point. Once you've made a backup copy, select the gradient map layer and the line drawing layer and merge them. Next, set the blend mode of this new merged layer to multiply. My image now looks like this...

If you aren't completely happy with the results, you can go back and fiddle with the gradient map again until you like the results. Next, create a new layer between the line drawing layer and the background layer. Name this new layer "color". I left the blend mode of the "color" layer to "Normal," but I set the opacity to 70% so some of the tan background color shows through. Then with the "color" layer selected, I started coloring in various areas of the image using the airbrush tool set to 100% opacity. I chose to use subdued colors for my palette, keeping with that Arthur Rackham sort of feel. I didn't want anything too bright here.

As a side note: You don't have to use a boring airbrush tool here like I did, you could use all sorts of brushes to add textures and effects. Play around with it and find what works for you. Adding textures to background layer might also be an interesting option. If you are interested in learning how to create your own custom textures I have another tutorial on creating texture brushes in Photoshop that you might be interested in.

This is what it looks like so far...

If I hide the pencil drawing layer, it looks like this...

I think it's getting there, but the lines need to be darker. So I created a duplicate of the line drawing layer. Since this new layer inherits the blend mode of multiply, it darkens everything nicely. It also makes those smudges more pronounced, which is exactly what I wanted.

The last step, was to darken and add a little texture to the edges using a custom made texture brush. The final result is the image that you see at the top of this post.

So, like I said before, I'm no Arthur Rackham, but hopefully this has giving you some inspiration to experiment and come up with your own techniques for coloring your pencils drawings.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Drawing from Life #4

Today I parked myself in the children's section at Barnes and Noble. Little kids are a challenge to draw because they are constantly moving. So it wasn't so much drawing from life today as it was taking inspiration from life. I love those little fleece hats with the pointy ear things. I think the kids look so cute in those.

I also puttered with adding some soft colors in Photoshop.