Study Round-Up

It's been longer than I intended since I let my habit of doing quick morning studies lapse but two things have got me back to working on them:

The first was joining The Ultimate Study Group on Facebook. Weekly challenges plus other artists sharing their own studies helps with both inspiration and motivation. It's nice when you want to doodle something but can't settle on a subject.

A couple of recent studies from the group that I'm pretty pleased with. The first topic was lava, so I decided to paint this amazing BLUE lava from a volcano in Indonesia (it's burning sulphur!).

This next topic was Skin (but not your own skin tone) so I referenced an image I've had saved on my Pinterest for ages. The source is here. I didn't use the colour picker and instead eyeballed the colours 100% - as a result, my study is too warm and dark. When I put them side by side I did consider using a colour adjustment layer to fix it, but I decided that I'd rather leave it as it is, as proof that my observational skills need more practice!

And the second reason for doing more studies? A commission which involves actually showing hands doing something, as opposed to being casually hidden behind...well, literally anything I can get away with hiding hands behind.

I can't show anything from the commission for a while yet, but here are a couple of the studies I did. The reference photos of me, pajama-clad, staring bleary-eyed into the camera first thing on a Saturday morning are not seeing the light of day and I'm doing you all a favour in this. Trust me. Art - it's a glamourous business...

These only took a few hours in total but so worth the practice (I took a bunch more reference photos and could have sworn I was posing the same way in each one, but my hand position turned out entirely different in all of them. I just couldn't have made it up from my imagination).

If you have a Facebook account and want to join The Ultimate Study Group, just make sure you have some of your artwork linked or shown on your Facebook profile so the admins know you're a practicing artist. It's a really handy way to challenge yourself to tackle a new subject, or just to give you some focus for a relaxing doodling session.

Into Stardust: Goodbye, David Bowie

Labyrinth was the effort of many, many people and it wasn't just Bowie that made the movie a cult classic, or the inspiration that it was to me and a lot of artists I know. Nevertheless, I can't think of Labyrinth without Bowie, or his music, and it certainly wouldn't be the same film without him. And a different film might not have made me fall quite so in love with dark villains, or fantasy, or heroine's journeys or glitter in the same way. So I owe a big bright spark of inspiration in my life to Bowie.

Beyond that, he's a reminder that you can do something that flops at making money but changes the lives and paths of generations. That you can inspire people at any age. That you can reinvent yourself over and over and it's never too late to be transforming, making, creating. That you can surround yourself by awesome people and collaborate, steal from, be inspired by - whatever you want to call it - and still put together work that is might be totally different to anything you've done before, but that is uniquely yours. That you don't have to give a damn about whether you're too old or you've had too long a break to do what you love.

Today's a good day to find that thing you really want to do but are afraid it's not "you" or that nobody would like it - and do it anyway.

Quick Sketches

I've been trying to make myself get up early and spend a little time working on studies before I go to work. Mostly I've been using Panoramio to find landscape reference. I try to keep most of them to thirty minutes or so, but here are a couple I enjoyed enough to spend an hour or two on.

 I also discovered a great Tumblr blog for facial reference -

Not ideal if you're looking for dynamic angles or lighting, but great for practicing skintones and looking to study different facial features. Like a lot of artists, I catch myself painting the same faces over and over so this is good practice for me.

I also tried to make myself get up a little early to go for a run on alternate mornings. That...has not worked out so well. My motivation to go outside and move my feet is apparently at an all time low first thing in the morning. But it does make getting up to sketch, knowing I can stay in my pajamas, much more appealing!

Update on the State of Me

Firstly, an update on Duck Dive, which is progressing nicely from the blocky scribble I started with (after much ado about posing, and a few quick studies trying to capture the motion -  I'll post those another time). I know, I know, the poor mermaid has currently sacrificed her arms. I'll either get them right soon or call it "creature design" and pretend it was on purpose. Shh, don't tell.

Secondly, I'm working on another commission for my wonderful friend Grace Draven (whom I illustrated Entreat Me for, as well as Master of Crows) and after a round of thumbnail sketching, here's the final concept that I'm currently working from!

I took a much needed holiday last month to visit my friend and talented comic artist/illustrator Rebecca Morse or Pika-la-Cynique, as followers of my art might know her better by. We ate barbeque and crepes, went hill-walking and took in the views of southern France, enjoyed Feminist Artist Rants in person instead of on Google Hangouts for a change, and also drank until giggly. There might have been dancing.

I also applied for an awesome training course in Glasgow to kick my senior artist skills into touch, so I'll be travelling down once a month to learn more about the digital arts business, company management, public speaking and presenting (which is something I'd like to get a lot better at, for teaching and workshops and so on) and lots of other good stuff. AND I get to go on a trip to San Francisco with the others in the programme in February! It'll be my first time visiting, and we'll be seeing a lot of awesome Silicon Valley companies so I am very, very excited!

More WIP and Digging Out Some Old Sketches

Dagger finished, started working out the mehndi  (yes, I usually start out with scribbles like this until I stumble onto a shape I like). Like everything else, I'm going for a shell/coral design, all whorls and swirls.  Listening to the How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack while I do it - music distracts my brain so I don't overthink the patterns too hard.

I also stumbled across something while I was tidying out some old folders. My high school sketchbooks used to take a real beating, being carried about to ever single lesson (for that precious 3 mins drawing time before the teacher arrived), to and from my friends' houses, on holiday, and pretty much everywhere else I went.  When we got a scanner I started "saving" some of the drawings I liked best by scanning them before the sketchbook fell to pieces entirely. I remember doing this while I was still in high school - about fourteen or fifteen, I think.  So that makes this at least ten years old!

Anyone guess what book they're reading? :)