Industrious Illustrating #3: Pitch Bible Sketches

Hello, and welcome back to Industrious Illustrating! Apologies for being slightly late to the usual Friday posting date.

This week we’re looking at a project that I’m a part of for the Michigan Animation Club at this university. This semester, MAC’s student officers came up with casual semester-long collaborative projects related to animation and visual development for club members to work together on. I was especially interested in Erica’s “Pitch Bible” project. In animation and TV shows in general, a pitch bible is a package of premise, concept art, story, and characters that can be presented to interested parties as a sample of what the proposed project is about.

The specific project we’re trying to develop is a post-apocalyptic solarpunk world where the remnants of humanity encounter intelligent animal and plant people in the overgrown ruins of civilization. We aren’t far enough into the development process to have an actual pitch bible, but I’ve made some character sketches over the past few weeks that I then bounced off of other group members for thoughts and feedback.

The penguin is wearing rags torn off of discarded human clothes and organic material. The lotus person turns the basic body components of a lotus plant into a bipedal creature that evolved to help fill the empty niche left by humans.

A few group members said that the spider mech looked scary and that it’d be even scarier if it could swim. Anyway, the spider mech can swim now.

The lizard person and the pug person were explorations of how humanoid our group members want the animals to look. The old lady screaming about chicken is a key character who drives the conflict inside the human group about whether or not they should consume meat that came from talking animals. She also has a few screws loose.

I scribbled some environment sketches based on concept art I saw in the “Art of Destiny” art books, but I’m not really happy with how they turned out. The pig lady is a potential love interest for a convict character in the human group, and the pigeon is an aviator who could belong to the pigeon air force we discussed as a group.

Other group members made lovely character and environment sketches which aren’t really my right to share without their permission. By the end of the semester, we’ll hopefully have enough material to show for our project that we can present it to others like an actual professionally made animation pitch bible. If not, we still had a lot of fun along the way, and that’s what the process of art should be anyway — fun.

Industrious Illustrating #2: Life Drawings 1

Hey all! I hope everyone has had a good and restful spring break so far! This week, I’d like to share some examples of life drawings from a sketchbook I maintained during the November of last year.

Below, I used watercolor and inks at a live nude model drawing session held by MDraw to study the model’s skin texture and gesture. I’m looking forward to MDraw hosting more life drawing sessions after spring break, as the entry free is pretty affordable (less than a cup of boba!) and I always feel like my skills have improved after a session.

Meanwhile, these life studies are far more loose and fluid. I looked at my classmates during a lecture and tried to capture the gesture and contour of their bodies first, leaving details and exact proportions second. The result is a study of motion in stationary subjects.

I don’t just draw human subjects, either. These three sketchbook pages are from an ink drawing project I did for Drawing: Observation class during that month. Professor Guilmet brought her fascinating collection of dried, pickled, and taxidermied animals to class for us to draw from. Once the weather warms up a little more, I might go to a zoo or a wildlife sanctuary so that I can draw some animals that are still kicking and breathing! Maybe they’ll find their way into one of my drawings.

If any of you guys are also visual artists, I highly recommend drawing anything you find interesting from live observation. No two people find the exact same images and objects interesting, so you’ll gradually develop a visual library in your brain that is completely unique to who you are as a person. And who knows, maybe your drawings could spark an interest in someone else toward something they previously didn’t see the value in. 🙂

Industrious Illustrating #1: References

Hello, and welcome to Industrious Illustrating! This is a new weekly column updating on Fridays which will show process pictures, sketches, and sometimes finished works that show what goes into making character designs, illustrations, and the like.

This week we will look at two different pieces I created based on photographs I took on a 2019 summer trip to England.

Last night, I digitally painted this piece of two girls hanging out in an alcove on the University of Cambridge campus. I directly painted over my photograph for the background, but I took liberties in the exact details and drew two figures who weren’t present in the original picture. I had to construct the lighting and proportions on the two characters based on my own understanding of how lighting and scale would work in that environment.

I traditionally painted this piece with watercolors and alcohol-based markers in the fall of 2020 based on a photograph I took at the Bridge of Sighs in Oxford. I had to eyeball all the proportions and perspective and then draw the environment by hand, albeit while referencing a photograph. In retrospect, I think some of the details and perspective look a little off. But that was the best I could do at the time without the ability to directly paint over the original photograph.

For both paintings, I had to rely on my own understanding of lighting and perspective to construct the scene. The original photographs were also unquestionably my work. Since I wanted to depict real places in the United Kingdom, I couldn’t just rely on my own imagination to recreate existing scenery, and it wasn’t practical for me to return to the UK in person every time I wanted to paint a real-life scene. So my best option was to use photographs as a tool for inspiring interesting illustrations.

Digital art programs make image adjustments such as brightness, contrast, and saturation much easier, and they also have the blessing known as the undo function (ctrl-z). They also have the ability to directly integrate photographs into paintings for textures and references, which professional concept artists and illustrators often use so that they can finish detailed paintings on a timely basis for their clients. Using these tools isn’t cheating, as no amount of fancy tools can compensate for a lack of artistic skill. Rather, digital art programs enable artists to speed up their workflow and create finished works faster for both professional and hobbyist purposes.

I’m still proud of both pieces, and I think they both have their own merits. But this comparison should hopefully show that while digital art programs didn’t teach me the fundamentals or my current skills, they do help smooth out the process as a tool akin to a paintbrush or a pen.