A little help from my friends…

Sometimes a little help from friends can be a really good thing… especially in art! I do a lot of “drawing from my head”… and I think most artists do… but finding references for artwork helps your art look more realistic. “In my head” might be the basic idea, but sometimes the proper proportions, shading, and little details are just not floating around up there. Then I have to remind myself that Real Artists Use Reference… and get some!

In the past, artists have used their sketchbooks as reference, and I completely, 100%, absotively posolutely recommend spending lots of time sketching in sketchbooks. Carry one everywhere you go, and draw, draw, draw. Not only will you gain lots of reference sketches, but you’ll also gain lots of practice at drawing! Today, there are lots more options for visual reference. You can borrow books of art or photography from the library. You can search Google Images. (MOMS… For younger children, make sure YOU are the one searching Google… I have been absolutely shocked by some of the pictures that have popped up while searching for something!) The idea is not to copy the artwork, but to use it to understand how an artist portrayed something or to see the proper proportions.

Taking reference photos has also been used by artists since the advent of photography. Drawing from a live model is not possible every day, so many times an artist will have a model pose for them, take photos, and use the photos later for their artwork. When digital photography came out a few years ago, oh boy, artists were excited! No more waiting for film to be developed, and finding that you missed the perfect shot. The results were almost instantaneous! And today’s technology can…

Well… Let me show you.

I did some “in my head” drawings of a little girl for a book idea that I have…

Don’t mind the watercolor schplop on the side of the page. 😀 I’ve been doodling this girl for about a year now, in various poses, as she works through the story line that also floating around in my head. (Tread carefully, it’s messy in there!)

But a week or so ago, my young artist friend, Dory, came over to swap drawing tips. And I “borrowed” her (and her very patient Mom!) for a quick photo session with my iPad!

We used a stool as our “pumpkin”…

And pretended to pour…

(And looking at this photo, I realized that without my
art kids coming each week and reminding me,
I forget to turn my calendar pages!)

We took several poses for each idea…

Then… and this is the really neat part… I started playing with the photos in the iPad Brushes app! I imported the photos, put them in an underlayer and turned down the opacity, and then used my stylus to sketch over them with “pencil”…

Then I e-mailed the sketches to my desktop, printed them,
went over them with a real pencil, and ended up
with some really useful working sketches!

The photos were also helpful at showing me where the bright sunlight and deep shadows will go… that explains the smudges of gray on the sketches. I can’t wait to see how these will meld with watercolor into a finished illustration! I am definitely impressed by how quickly I was able to get a whole bunch of reference sketches by using the iPad… and with the help of a little friend!

Next week, I’m hoping to do a series of posts that show the steps in creating the illustrations for a kids’ book from start to finish! I can’t claim to be an expert, by any means, but illustrating Zero and One was a huge learning experience for me, and I thought it would be fun to share!

3 thoughts on “A little help from my friends…

  1. Fascinating post, Kim! Your friend is adorable, as well as helpful. I guess you could say that your ipad and your camera and your computer are your friends too…but they’re not as cute as Dory. 🙂

    You do such beautiful work!

  2. She is definitely a cutie… and a good little artist as well! She was the perfect age to work with as a model, too, because she really understood just how to act out various scenes!

    Kim 🙂

  3. Pingback: Working with a Model… |

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