Fox Tattoo Design

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I’m so excited to share this piece! This illustration was commissioned as the base design for a client’s sleeve tattoo. A sleeve tattoo! To be tattooed on a real person! I was given the desired subjects—a fox, roses, orchids, butterflies, and a skull—the suggested style of semi-old-school tattoo, and given free reign over the design. This piece was a lot of fun, and quite a step out of my comfort zone! I kept solid lines all around the piece (to reference old school tattoos) which is not usually how I apply linework, so it was fun to have new constraints. I’ll post pictures of the actual tattoo once it’s complete! Here are some close ups to show the textures and details:

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And here’s a bit of process work!

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From sketches, where I was trying to figure out how to fit the fox and the skull together in a narrow composition…

 

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To the final sketches that I sent to the client for feedback…

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To the final inked illustration (minus the wonky butterflies, which I was still figuring out) combining the parts of each sketch the client liked, to create one final composition…

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To experimenting with texture directions for the fox fur…

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To the final inked texture of the fox fur with a redo of the head… and then from there it was all digital magic! And I can’t waaaaait to announce the next thing I have coming up! I’m so excited about it—here’s a little sneak peek:

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Pronking Alpacas!

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This series was created for BuzzHootRoar—a team of scientists that run a “graphics-driven blog that shares and explains a scientific concept in 300 words or less—where I am the Artist in Residence! My illustrations accompany an article titled Pronking: The Happy Dance That Should Kill You (But Doesn’t). The article describes the technique of pronking, a motion where animals pogo into the air lifting all four feet off the ground at once, and why they do it. I created two animated GIFs for this series, as well as one still illustration. You can see the series in context and read the article over on BuzzHootRoar

As soon as I was given this assignment and learned what pronking was, I knew I had to make an animated GIF. The article was talking about a “joyous all-four-hooves-in-the-air leap”—how could I not?! Only problem was… I’ve never made one before. Eek! But have no fear, I dove right in and figured it out! Here’s my process of creating the GIF if you’re interested in making one as well, or just curious!

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First, as always, I started out researching the subject. I began by collecting references of alpacas and gazelles, and drawing them in lots of different ways to figure out what their bodies look like, and how I wanted to draw them. Here’s a page from my sketchbook of a bunch of alpacas I drew during this stage.

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Then I started researching pronking, watching videos and drawing them in action, figuring out how their bodies move when they pronk. The alpacas and gazelles pronked pretty differently. The gazelles almost went limp up in the air with their backs arched, legs dangling beneath them. The alpacas sprung up into the air (not nearly as high as the gazelles) and straightened their legs when all four were off the ground, making more of a subtle motion. Anyways, it was cool to watch, and I ended up with drawings of them in sequence, like the sketch above of the gazelle.

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Then I scanned in those sequence drawings, played around with color schemes, colored them digitally and added textures, as seen above.

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Then, I merged a bunch of layers together (after saving copies along the way so I could back track if I needed to—which always happens!), so I had each animal on a separate layer, and converted those to frames. Next, I aligned each animal up using the shadow as the base, and resized the canvas. It took a bit of experimentation to find the perfect alignments and frame delay to make the animation flow smoothly.

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After that, you just export that baby as a GIF!

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In other news, I bound and mailed off my (highly revised) picture book dummy to SCBWI Carolinas last week! I’m attending their annual conference in Charlotte, NC in September and signed up for a manuscript/dummy critique. I took a past version of this dummy to the SCBWI Houston conference in April, and got some great feedback from art directors and fellow illustrators on how I could improve it. I also got heaps of fantastic advice from my online crit group that helped make the story more clear, and the illustrations more true to me and my style. This book has improved so much over the past few months, and I’m thrilled to show it to more people in September at SCBWI Carolinas! Thank you everyone who has given me comments and feedback—you’re the best!

How Many Does it Take?

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My most recent illustration series for BuzzHootRoar—and my first series as their new Artist in Residence—went live last week! BuzzHootRoar is a team of scientists that run a “graphics-driven blog that shares and explains a scientific concept in 300 words or less”. My illustrations accompany an article describing “how many of the biggest, longest, or tallest animals in their class (or order or family!) it would take stacked end-to-end to reach the top of some of our favorite landmarks.” You can see all the illustrations I created (there are 15 total!) and read the article over on the BuzzHootRoar website. And here’s a bit of process work to show how I created the series.

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First, I was given the text and data chart with the animal species, landmarks, and heights. I researched the animals and sketched out different variations of each. Above are the final drawings for each animal I was to illustrate.BHR-how-many-process-2-blog

Then I popped those sketches in Photoshop and play around with colors, making lots of quick color studies. The shot above it the color study I ended up using as the reference for the final illustrations. Here are a few of the final animal illustrations complete with color and texture:

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After (and kind of simultaneously), I illustrated the landmarks and then applied color and texture digitally. BHR-how-many-process-6-blog

 

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One tricky part to this series, was organizing the comparison illustrations. We wanted 10 single illustrations of the animals, explaining which category they were in (tallest bird, etc.), but we also wanted 5 illustrations that compared the animals to landmarks, showing how many of each animal it would take to reach the top of the landmark. This was a challenge because I only had so much space to work with so I had to make the layout small enough to fit on their blog, but large enough to be legible, and to let each piece of the illustration breathe a little. I experimented with tons of different layouts, going back and forth with the BuzzHootRoar team and getting their feedback as well. Here’s a little GIF of the process of finding the right layout, and getting everything spaced just right! It was definitely a challenge, but I think we ended up with something that really works!

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After I had the layout finalized and approved, I moved on to hand-drawing the typography. This takes quite a bit of time (and actually a lot of concentration), but I just love the feeling of hand-drawn type. I think it gives my illustrations a feel of humanity, warmth, and approachability. And it’s like putting even more of my personal thumbprint on the illustration.

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From there, I assembled the illustrations, double-checked spelling, spacing, and continuity between each piece, and sent them off!

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Thanks for reading, and remember, you can see all the full series and read the article over on the BuzzHootRoar website!

P.S. Here’s a little sneak peek of something else I’m working on currently!

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Love One Another

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I recently created this piece for First United Methodist church as part of their program to help provide goods to people in need. They requested an uplifting, inspirational, happy piece with the words “love one another” to be used on bags of goods for kids. So I created this illustration, using hand-drawn lettering and a few of my little creatures.

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The process of hand lettering is really fun and almost like solving a puzzle, except you have to fit the puzzle pieces together AND make the pieces. I start by just drawing the words over and over in a bunch of different layouts—stacked, side-by-side, slanted, etc. At this point, I’m not trying to make it look good, I’m just getting a feel for the shapes and lengths of the words I’m using. Then after I kind of have an idea for a layout, I start focusing on the individual letters. I’ll generally start by repetition, same as in the previous step, just drawing the words over and over, changing a few details each time to see what works and what evolves. After I have a letter that I really love, I move on to the next. Sometimes I end up coming back to letters I thought were perfect, when they begin to not work with the other letters I’ve chosen. After drawing the phrase a bajillion times, eventually it just evolves into the right thing naturally! I think it’s really about just letting go, feeling where the pen moves naturally, and letting it go there itself. When you get something that really flows, it just feels right!

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Above is the final drawing that I ended up with after all the different variations. I’m really happy with how it turned out, especially how the “L” leads into the “O” and the “R” crosses the “T”. From there, I scanned it into the computer and began to work digitally. I cleaned up some of the lines, and also added the white subtraction where the lines overlap to give it some depth and substance. I think it also adds kind of a retro feel to it, and allows you to see the overlapping and intertwining more clearly.

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If you’re interested, I’ve got this piece up in my two shops, Society6 and InPrint! My InPrint store sells art prints, and my Society6 store has a lot of products including pillows, bags, t-shirts, and mugs as seen above. Check it out if you need to buy a gift for someone (or yourself)!
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Thanks for following my work and I can’t wait to show you the exciting project I’m going to post next week!

BuzzHootRoar Artist in Residence

MC-spider-love-story-blogYou guys! I’m so thrilled to announce that I am now the Artist in Residence at BuzzHootRoar! BuzzHootRoar is a team of scientists who run a “graphics-driven blog that shares and explains a scientific concept in 300 words or less.” You can see their announcement of my residency and a quick interview with me on their website here.

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I’ve teamed up with BuzzHootRoar twice in recent months, first illustrating the evolutionary mating rituals of jumping spiders in Jumping Spiders: An Evolutionary Love Story:

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and then again illustrating a guide to the differences between commonly confused animals in What’s the Difference?:

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As the Artist in Residence, I will be working with the team more consistently, creating an illustrated series with them every other week. I love working with BuzzHootRoar because I get to learn about such interesting and weird things in nature, and then come up with a way to visually explain it! I’m so excited to have this opportunity, and can’t wait to learn lots of weird things and churn out a lot of great work!

What’s The Difference?

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Hooray, new work I can show! I recently partnered up for the second time with Buzz Hoot Roar—a team of scientists that run a “graphics-driven blog that shares and explains a scientific concept in 300 words or less”—to create a new 7-part illustration series. You may remember seeing my previous project with them: Jumping Spiders: An Evolutionary Love Story.

For this project, I illustrated a guide to point out the differences between commonly confused animals, like frogs and toads, or turtles and tortoises! Here are a few of my favorites from the project below; the rest can be seen either in my portfolio, or you can check out the full article on BuzzHootRoar titled, “What’s the Difference“!

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And here’s a couple process shots, including the original pencil drawings of a few of the illustrations, and the hand-drawn type variations for the titles and captions.

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Also, I had a request from a few of BuzzHootRoar’s readers to offer the Ape vs Monkey illustration in my store, so I’ve posted it up if anyone else is interested! Let me know if you’d like any of the other illustrations, and I’ll post those as well. You can view this shirt and my other products in my Society6 store!

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In picture book news, I’ve been chugging away at my PB dummy, and can now say that it’s complete! For now. Here’s a little in-progress detail shot of one of the two colored spreads in the dummy. I’m really excited to see people’s response to it, and hope I can find an agent to represent it and me!

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And of course, you don’t just get one idea, or just have one project in the works. I’ve got multiple other stories in the manuscript phase, and I’m beginning to start on character development and storyboarding with my next favorite. It’s refreshing to have projects in different stages! Some days I’ll write, some days I’ll sketch characters, and some days it’s full blown production time!

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