Digital Drawing for Science & Fantasy

It's been a busy summer so far and it's looking like it will be an eventful fall as well! There will be lots to share in the coming months. For now, I've put up a mini workshop I put together. This lesson will show how I build up an anatomical study from wire frame gesture to final drawing. I’ll show how I break the skeleton down into planar shapes to better draw it as a 3D object, attach the musculature to the bone, use animal reference for creature design and I how use these principles to better understand the anatomy of a creature. I cover basic photoshop techniques and how I use them to edit and manipulate my work. Inside you’ll find notes and observations on drawing techniques as well as design principles.

Inside the ZIP file you’ll receive a 25 page PDF workshop with written notes, diagrams, images and menu screenshots. You’ll also receive a 300dpi PSD file of lion anatomy diagrams; both the side views and the ¾ view. The PSD file contains all of my original gestures and work that builds up to the final line drawing.

You can find the workshop here:

Designing Radish Spirits

My last reveal from the Miyazaki show are radish spirits. I have always loved Spirited Away. It's sort of a "comfort food" movie for me. One of my favorite characters is the Radish Spirit. He/she is so peculiar and odd. The character has always stood out to me. So, I knew I wanted to illustrate the iconic design straight from the film. 

That said, I also wanted to put my own spin on the name "Radish Spirit". I assume that the traditional Radish spirit from Spirited Away is modeled after a daikon radish so I picked two more species to model my own spirits from: The French Breakfast Radish and the Spanish Black Radish. 

All of my work starts as messy scribbles. I like to sketch out roughs in my sketchbook and then move to photoshop where I'll work out the details, proportions and color. 

Here I can sketch rather quickly, trying out colors, shapes and sizes. For these spirits, I wanted them each to occupy a shape: a triangle, a square and a circle. A lot of design in animation is based on overall shapes that describe a character's personality or attributes. Mostly it was an exercise in variation. 

From there, I used my usual method of bringing a digital sketch to finish. I print the image out, lightbox trace it and bring the drawing to finish from there. After that, I will apply color via gouache painting.

For this piece, I wanted the coloration to feel light and airy, similar to what you see in Studio Ghibli's art books. This piece was a fun way to use my creature design muscles for something so established. The original paintings are actually all separate from each other. This lineup was created for a limited edition of prints available at the gallery.  These spirits will be on display at Sketchpad gallery for the remainder of the month. To inquire about seeing the show, contact Sketchpad on Facebook.

LCAD Creature Design Student Work

It's been a whirlwind of a summer. As fall rolls around, things are leveling out a bit. As you might know, I have been teaching an online creature design course with LCAD, Game Art department. It's been a lovely experience. My first class with LCAD this last Spring was a great group. A lot of the students improved quite a bit with drawing animals and working on their concepts. It was very encouraging and rewarding to see such a great group of concepts at the end of the course. I wanted to showcase a few that I received in my inbox below. I've listed each student's name and website below in case you'd like to check out more of their work. Please click on the images below to view larger. 

Leostrix by James Bear :

Brachyurilla by Ian Joseph Diaz:

Damien the Manticore by Kial Fukuda :

The Mexican Chupacabra by Megan Tompkins :

Striped Cuttleshark by Nicholas Williams :

The Faux Phoenix by Donna Vu : 

More updates again soon. 

Down the Rabbit Hole : The Jabberwocky

Long time, no updates! Things have been busy and this year is already going by way too fast. I have a new piece to share! I am included in an amazing lineup of artists for an Alice in Wonderland show that will open in beautiful downtown Oakland, April 10th. I thought I'd take the chance to paint the fabled Jabberwocky! 

The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, And burbled as it came!

This piece is 8x10 and was created with pencil and gouache. I thought I'd share a bit of my process for this piece as well. Of course every creature starts out with sketches. I doodled out a few messy jabberwocks in my sketchbook: 

From here I needed to push the design of the head more. I took it as a teaching opportunity and discussed it with my students. I showed them which animals I was looking at when I came up with the initial design (top middle sketch) and then took other animals and their features to add to the final design. 

Click to view larger

Now that I had my Jabberwocky designed, I could move on to the sketch for the final piece. I tend to sketch digitally, even when I'm working traditionally. This is a good way to figure out composition and color. 

After sketching in photoshop, I'll print the image and trace/draw the image on a light-box. Here's what the final pencil looked like (after I had tinted the line a bit).

I'm trying something new with this piece. Instead of painting directly over my pencil, I decided to print a giclee pencil on a piece of hot press watercolor paper. This would give me two originals: a pencil and a painting. This would also insure that the pencil wouldn't bleed into the gouache. I am unable to use spray fixative (I have a severe reaction to it) and so this process would help. 

The show will be up in April and if you're in the area, I suggest you come out for the opening! I'm included with an awesome list of talent, it'll be a fabulous show! I've got one other piece in the works for the show as well. More on that soon. 

Poster image by Steven Russell Black

Poster image by Steven Russell Black

Hope to see you there!