Industrious Illustrating #56 – Botanical Gardens

Hey guys! This week I visited the Matthaei Botanical Gardens with my classmates for ARTDES 364 – Visualizing Science and took a lot of notes on the guided tour. We’re working on a project to revamp the Botanical Gardens’s map, so I made sketches of the general layout and where the different plants of interest are located.

I also took note of some botanical facts that made me imagine sci-fi speculative evolution worldbuilding for my own projects, especially the Indian banyan tree’s ever-encroaching roots that try to suffocate any plants in their path. In my own imagining they become the inspiration for giant biomechanical tendrils slowly engulfing ruins and wreckage from a bygone era.

All in all, I’m really glad that I got the opportunity to learn more about the botanical gardens for various creative projects that I’m gradually working on! Next week I’ll be selling in the Artist Alley at Katsucon in National Harbor, Maryland, so my weekly post will likely come later in the weekend than usual! Have a great week!

Industrious Illustrating #55 – Study Step-by-step

Hello and welcome back to another week of Industrious Illustrating! This week I’m doing a quick breakdown of how I do digital painting studies to brush up on my fundamentals and improve my mental visual library for my drawing and design work.
It’s generally better to do studies from life rather than from photographs because cameras distort reality and also you can understand the subject from more angles if you see it in real life. However, for this exercise I’m using a Shutterstock stock photograph because trying to find and draw an excavator on-site during the winter months is too much hassle for me personally.

My first step is to draw color blocks to get down the idea of the subject matter while not worrying too much about complete accuracy. It’s way easier to work with a drawing that already exists than with a blank canvas.

My next step is to tweak the proportions and start adding in details to represent what I see in front of me.

As I work on details, I realize that some of the proportions aren’t correct and fix them. This is also how I work on my regular art pieces — mistakes are just a natural part of the process and can be overcome!

The finished study now looks like this! It’s not a fully refined drawing, but I feel like I’ve done enough work to better understand how the different parts of an excavator work together, which was the goal of my study session anyway.

I even draw shapes over my study to solidify my understanding of what the basic building block shapes in an excavator are.

Of course, this is only one way to do studies, and there may be a way to learn that makes more sense to you! I just hope that talking through my process like this helps you discover what might work best for you in the future. See you next week!

Industrious Illustrating #54 – Progress Pictures

This week’s column is a day late because I’ve been tabling at Isshocon, a new 3-day anime convention located near us in Novi Michigan! So far it’s been going fairly well considering that it only has fewer than two thousand attendees — I’ve made more money than at Motor City Comic Con Fall for a much less expensive table, though my work is much better geared to anime conventions. Here’s a picture of my table:

The main topic of this week’s column is going over some work-in-progress pictures from my recent drawings, which has been on my mind because the application for Fanime Con (a large anime convention that happens in San Jose, CA on Memorial Day weekend) required a signed work-in-progress picture to weed out AI “artists” and art thieves. I’m in a group chat with a bunch of other artists who sell at conventions and seeing everyone else’s progress pictures was really interesting for seeing how other artists work. I won’t use the work-in-progress images I used for my Fanime application to keep it private, so I’ll instead go over a chibi mecha design I drew last year with WIP screenshots I took during the process.

My typical digital working process starts with “blocking” out the drawing as a color sketch, working more on getting the general idea down rather than having perfect proportions or coloring.

As I work on this base colors sketch, I freely use the lasso tool and eraser to resize and edit parts I don’t like in addition to working more with the default oil paint brush tool I use for my work.

Once I have a baseline I’m happy with, I start doing lineart from the top to the bottom on another layer, working more on the rendering and polish as the lineart solidifies what I want the drawing to look like.

Compare with my finished drawing:

Would you guys like to see me do more breakdowns/work-in-progress sequences of my drawings in the future? I’d love to know if you do!

Industrious Illustrating #53 – Life Drawing 5

Hello, and welcome back to another week of Industrious Illustrating! This week’s update is a little brief, since I’m just recapping the trip I took to the La Brea Tar Pits Museum in Los Angeles over winter break. When I was there I took the opportunity to draw some of the fossil skeletons on display to better understand the construction of animal bodies, as I hadn’t seen some of these skeletons in real life before and I want to make more creature/scientific illustrations in the future.

Something interesting about my trip there was that there was a glass windowed viewing area to look at scientists at work cleaning fossils recovered from the “tar” pits (which are actually filled with liquid asphalt!), and there were a few informational plaques and displays sitting on the windowsill ranging from excavated bugs and microshells to stuffed animals of the animals most commonly found in La Brea. There was also a scientific illustrator on staff (who I assume drew the lovely drawings on some of the plaques) who was actively working on a scientific illustration on their iPad when I was visiting. I especially enjoyed the puppet of the now-deceased mountain lion P-35, as I’d just read about his story in the excellent book “Crossings: How Road Ecology Is Shaping the Future of Our Planet”.

All in all, my visit to the La Brea Tar Pits left me feeling more inspired and motivated than before. While I doubt I’ll pursue scientific illustration as a full-time career, I still want to explore different subject matter I find interesting as much as I can so that my work will be versatile and never grow stale or predictable. And of course, there’s no need to travel far from home to do so — even back in Ann Arbor there’s several resources such as the Natural History Museum, the Leslie Science & Nature Center, and the Creature Conservancy that all have skeletons or live animals on display to see and understand in real life.
That’s all for this week! What would you guys like to see me discuss next week? Let me know!

Industrious Illustrating #52 – Experimentation

Hello, and welcome back to another week of Industrious Illustrating! It’s now 2024, which opens up a lot of new possibilities and directions for the rest of the year. That means I want to highlight a few drawings I’ve made recently that are more experimental or different from what I usually draw.

This was more of a graphic design-esque drawing I made for some zippered coin purses that I ordered from a supplier during a sale depicting a plastic file, two different types of plastic nippers, and two hobby markers that would all be common tools for building model kits. I wanted to go for something simple yet bold, as my usual style focuses a lot on details and elaborate painting.

This, meanwhile, is a quick digital doodle of the cell towers disguised as palm trees that I saw all around the Los Angeles and Orange County areas when I was visiting family there over winter break. I wanted to convey the feeling of driving home after a long day and realizing something is slightly off with one of the freakishly tall palm trees lining the freeway. I also wanted to free myself from needing every drawing to be highly polished, so I set myself a time limit on this one and stopped drawing once the 20 minutes was up.

That’s all for this week, but I want to wrap things up with a quick question. What ways have you personally experimented with your artwork recently — and if not, how will you experiment with it in the future? I’d love to hear about it!

Industrious Illustrating #51 – 2023 in Review

Happy holidays! I’ve been alternating between seeing my family, vacationing, and making art during break. Something I wanted to share with you guys before the end of the year is my 2023 art summary:

Template made by @Taxkha on Twitter/X

I tried to pick from a variety of art styles/subjects I drew this year to represent how I’ve progressed as an artist, as well as how my thoughts have continued over the course of the year across each month. It’s pretty obvious that I’ve been drawing a lot of mecha lately, so I’ll likely set aside some time to draw humans and furries next year more often.

Some notes: I had the hardest time picking out a single piece in July, August, October, and December to represent my art progress, as I had so many good pieces to pick from for those months. Meanwhile, February, March, September, and November were relatively easy to pick from as I hadn’t finished as many pieces. Not coincidentally, those were also mostly the months where I was starting new semesters of college and therefore had less spare time/energy to spend on my artwork. And in November’s case, I had two cons back to back that month and also had to deal with semester project deadlines creeping closer ahead of the end of the semester.

In terms of what I want to do next year art-wise, I do want to keep giving my follower/customer/client base what they want — which is largely fanart and acrylic charms — and make great sales online and at conventions, but I also want to do more original art and make my portfolio more solid to apply for well-paying art or design gigs. There’s only so much time I have in the day and year to make both of these aims happen, of course, but I am enrolled in a scientific illustration class next semester to make the second aim more achievable. I’ll likely be posting assignments from that class next semester as I try to strike a balance in this column between art business topics and talking about my art practice itself.

That’s all for this week, and I wish all of you a happy and restful holiday season!