I used a reference photo for this one. I love concept art drawings of large landscapes or cityscapes with small figures in the foreground. I envy the quiet. Probably why I enjoy so many post-apocalyptic stories. This was a simple perspective study done in Procreate.
One of the hardest things we have to do in terms of our digital content intake these days is decide when it’s taking too much of our time and energy away from the things we really want to be doing.
Certainly, for creative people, it can be invigorating to see all the other work that other artists are doing. It can be a lot of fun to converse with talented people and cheer them on. But there comes a time when instead of getting inspired, we’re just feeling like we’re not measuring up.
We have to remember, people aren’t sharing all the pages and pages of sketchbooks before showing that finished piece. We start to think that maybe everyone else can just hammer these amazing pieces of art on the daily, but it’s a curated image.
If you start feeling that you aren’t doing good enough, remember, you are, and maybe it’s just time to take a break from the never-ending timelines of margaritas and masterpieces (new band name).
That’s kind of where I’m at these days. I’d just much rather sketch and finish stuff and post it on my blog where it exists for longer than the 15 seconds of spotlight you get on social media in the hopes of grabbing a few precious “likes” so you can tell yourself you’re good enough. Let the site autopost the links and just forget about it. Hell, I’ve even deleted my social media apps from my devices to make it just a little bit harder for me to check back in on the roaring tide of…nothing much at all.
So back to sketching and working on new things to share on this art journey of mine. If you want to say hi where I’ll see it, leave me a comment below.
Procreate and the iPad Pro are a powerful and affordable combination for artists to stretch their digital muscles. If you just picked these up, then congratulations! You are about to have a lot of fun.
But where to begin?
Luckily Procreate’s minimalist and intuitive design makes the barrier of entry fairly nonexistent for artists learning the app. Even so, here are some great free (and a few inexpensive) resources to learn about all the vast capabilities of Procreate…
If you’re looking for the most clearly explained and demonstrated tips and tutorials for how to use every function in Procreate, look no further than Procreate’s Official YouTube Channel. Videos are very short and to the point. They use clear examples of the concept or tool they are discussing. This channel should be bookmarked for every beginning Procreate artist.
Here are a few of the most useful videos:
To see more official Procreate videos, click here.
Procreate’s own website has been slowly evolving into quite the resource for Procreate artists. Did you know they have their own image sharing area called Showcase? It’s in beta (has been for a while), but you can sign up for a free account to upload and share your artwork along with other amazing Procreate artists.
Well the site also has a nifty section called Discussions where you can find a treasure trove of helpful areas such as Artist's’ Advice to share or learn tips and tricks, Resources which has a lot of free brushes (of dubious quality) and tutorials, and Marketplace where other artists list their paid brush sets.
I’ve made my own list of fantastic brushes you can find at Best Brushes for Procreate, check those out after you read this post.
James Julier’s art tutorials are an amazing resource. They are simple, overhead views of him working on pieces in Procreate accompanied by his quiet, calming British narration. They can actually be quite relaxing and often focus on quiet, pleasing scenes of nature which is why I refer to James as the Bob Ross of Procreate.
These videos allow you to see exactly how James is using the app, brush adjustments, and applying his marks. Most often, he uses only a handful of the default brushes which shows you the capabilities of Procreate with the built-in tools. While many of the pieces James does are environmental, the techniques can be applied towards many different forms and subjects. His tutorials are a combination of Procreate and fundamental art instruction with a pinch of meditation.
To see more of James’ tutorials on YouTube, click here.
Austin Batchelor is a talented creature designer and concept artist who works strictly in Procreate. He’s one of my go-to’s for art instruction on the app. I would say that when you’ve gotten a feel for Procreate’s features and are feeling a little bit more comfortable with the app then just starting out, give some of Austin’s tutorials a try.
He has created TONS of quality videos, here’s a sampling of some standouts…
If you enjoy his many free YouTube tutorial videos, you an also support him by taking one of his excellent Udemy courses which feature longer instruction and file downloads to practice with.
Gal’s videos are not tutorials in the traditional sense (although he does publish those as well), that is, they’re quite short and they aren’t narrated. The reason I include him in this list is the specific way in which he presents each video.
For each of his pieces, you’ll get a nice overheard view to see exactly how he is drawing everything. You’ll see how each and every shape is drawn, how he transitions to different layers, and how he uses simple brushes to give texture and dimension to each work. I’ve learned a hell of a lot just watching Gal create a simple illustration and have been able to apply those same techniques to my own work.
Also, if you’re wondering if wearing an artist glove to use with your iPad makes a difference, IT DOES. Mainly it helps the side of your hand slide more easily across the screen and prevents smudge marks from the natural oil of your skin which saves you time wiping it off.
They’re all kind of flimsy, but personally I recommend the Huion Artist Glove as they’re a good name and it’s a simple, inexpensive glove.
Art Study Online is a site run in part by Procreate superstar Nikolai (Nikko) Lockertsen which alone justifies its addition to this list. ASO offers a small, but quality selection of inexpensive ($5 to $15) iPad art courses specifically created for Procreate. These courses are excellent for the intermediate user who wants to practice some more advanced concepts and compositions. Nikko is known for his incredibly complex and rich illustrations which he makes solely in Procreate. Here’s his portfolio on Procreate.art. It’s crazy.
Here are teaser videos for some of the courses…
If you’re looking for more advanced techniques in Procreate, look no further than the teachings of K. Michael Russell, Pro Comic Colorist and Art Instructor. Russell is on the forefront of the movement of professional artists making the switch from Photoshop to Procreate on the iPad Pro. You can find is growing playlist of Procreate-focused YouTube videos here.
Russell streams live coloring sessions on Twitch and if you’re ready to jump into more in-depth coursework, he offers several courses on Skillshare such as The Beginner's Guide to Digital Art with Procreate for iPad!
Those are the standouts for right now. Be sure to bookmark this post as I’ll add more quality tutorials as I come across them!
If there’s one simple way to give your illustrations some depth and character, it’s a noise brush. They can take a flat and boring image and turn into into something really unique. Now, there’s one solitary noise brush in the Procreate default brushes called Noise Brush (it’s in the Touchups menu). It’s not bad, but it is nice to have some options.
Can I say just how much I love Gumroad? I LOVE GUMROAD.
These are five excellent noise brushes made by Justas Galaburda of Iconuptopia, a site where he teaches icon design. For a sample of Justas’ work, check out his Instagram where his icon designs have a HUGE following. I’d sell a finger for numbers like this. Okay maybe not a finger, a toe perhaps, don’t need all of those anyway.
The Space Noise brush set is made up of five excellent noise brushes, the different styles of which you can see above.
Can I just say how much I appreciate a simple brush set with well titled brushes? These names stick in my brain a lot better than other brush sets where they might be titled ThisBrushPro and ThatBrushPro V.2 and ThemsBrushPro SUPER V.2. I’m probably going need to start naming other brushes myself based on what I use them for so I can remember them.
Here’s a quick piece I did below with the Space Noise set. I’ve been looking at a lot of Eyvind Earle concept art for Sleeping Beauty lately so it probably shows in what I ended up with.
Time for another artbook review!
I’ll be totally honest, after we got back from our Disney World honeymoon, I went a little nuts. I bought a whole slew of Disney art books because I was so inspired by the whole world of entertainment created and built on art. I never even really thought I was much of a Disney guy, but there’s a lot of really fun concepts amidst all the fluff and shiny colors.
For the first book in my Disney library, let’s talk about Marc Davis: Walt Disney’s Renaissance Man (amazon link).
The book itself is a nice oversized hardcover book with lots of illustrations to look at. The late Davis was an artist at Disney that had a very flexible aptitude in being able to work on animation, concept art, character design, story, and helped design many of the most recognizable attractions in Disneyland as well. This was a rarity as most of the artists focused their talents on one particular area.
The book tells of Davis’ life and how much art played a central role. He was painting early in his life, always sketching, taught art, learned animation, created concept art, kept visual journals of his and his wife’s travels around the world, and also left his mark on fine art with a focus on painting later in life. His story was incredibly inspiring for me. The man just loved to make art, loved to draw, and never quit. There are pages of sketches from football games he watched on television, everything was a worthy subject for his drawing. Something I’ve tried to keep in the forefront of my mind as I always seem to be asking myself, “what should I draw?”.
Some of his work I loved the most were his concept pieces for attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion as you can see below. To think that some of these scenes that are interwoven with the American psyche were born from the imagination of one man is incredible. As the book is pretty cheap (currently $12.99) I can definitely recommend picking it up for your own library if you want to see more of the concept work behind the famous rides of Disney parks around the world.
I’ve been sketching quite a few still lifes (lives? lifes?) over the past few weeks for practice and I can say that for some simple shapes you’d think shouldn’t be an issue to draw they can be frustrating as hell. It’s hard to stay engaged with a still life and it’s hard to find any energy or meaning in them, at least for me. I think that’s why most art students tend to hate doing them. I personally wasn’t looking forward to doing them, but I’m going through an art instructional book and I don’t want to skip anything.
This was an assignment from a book. I wasn’t into the idea of it. Too plain. I think that’s why it’s fairly obvious I didn’t put much effort into it. It helps to choose the objects or composition of what you’re drawing for a still life that engages you on some level or your piece is truly uninteresting and lacking.
This is a small cross-stitched pillow my wife made and wooden bird. I liked the end result here a lot more than many other still lifes I think in part because I like this little pillow and am always impressed by my wife’s stitching talent.
A great resource for potential subjects for still lifes is Pinterest. This was an “artist’s desk”. I think it was really just some pieces staged, but it worked. Done in Procreate.
This was a still life I drew on my lunch break at work at what was on my desk. Still life subjects are everywhere and anywhere you look, I think that’s part of why they make good subjects and help you build your skill, you start to see potential subjects anywhere. Anything can be a still life and a pleasing arrangement can make ordinary objects engaging to look at. Objects that look as though they were just put down and not posed are inherently more interesting to the viewer.
This was from a photograph. Again, since the objects were photographed just as they were and not posed, the resulting composition was very engaging to me and I, in turn, took my time with the sketch. Yes, I know the perspective is totally wrecked.
This is a YouTube video that’s a great introduction to how to draw still lifes and why they may be important to developing your drawing skill. Plus there’s a Pusheen coffee cup.
Continuing my series of Comics Academy posts where I write about the process of making comics (most of the stuff I’m learning right along with you), I put together a few reviews of some common places to publish your comics once it’s ready to make a public debut.
So, once a comic book has been created, where does it go?
If you're talking about digital comics, it doesn't get any bigger than Amazon-owned Comixology. They're the name in digital comics and probably the largest retailer of comics out there. Because of how monstrous the platform actually is, getting on Comixology can get your work in front of a lot of readers. A LOT. Titles that perform well there can even lead to getting published by traditional comic publishers.
The Comixology submission and acceptance / rejection process from what I can tell is just as shrouded in secrecy as most other tech company platforms. They have specific guidelines and rules that need to be adhered to in order to be accepted and they also appear to have their own view of "quality". Now, I haven't personally submitted to Comixology yet, although I plan to and when I do I'll write a detailed review of the process, but Comixology is the final judge of whether your comic is worthy of publishing on their platform. All I'm saying here is that indie creators who may not necessarily adhere to the "traditional" art forms or formats and methods of comic creation might run into an issue here as opposed to other platforms. Comixology has a specific kind of image that they want to uphold and I can understand why that is and I certainly think they know what they are doing when it comes to publishing comics because look at what they've built. I think what they've done for the comic book industry by dramatically increasing the reach to all kinds of readers is fantastic, however…
There are some pain points in dealing with Comixology. For one, the sales reports…
From what I can tell, there aren't any, so you don't really know how well your book is selling. The seller payment system also can be difficult. As opposed to other platforms, Comixology pays on a quarterly basis, 45 days after the quarter has ended, if you've reached the $100 threshold, in the form of a mailed check. So for all it's advantages of exposure and reach, depending on Comixology as an income stream can be very challenging for independent creators.
The fees for selling on Comixology are also not insignificant. While free to publish your work on the platform (provided your book is accepted) you'll get 50% of the cut after transaction fees and taxes. Oof.
Formatting for Comixology, by that I mean size, image quality, layout, and lettering should be something you consider as you create your comic. There's nothing worse than working for weeks and months or even years to finish your book and then realizing the panels are going to get cut off or your DPI is screwed up. Doing a simple internet search for comic book formats or templates is like having one thousand people screaming back at you their own opinion and telling you how they're the ones who are right. I've been hard-pressed, to find a format and layout requirements that are agreed upon by everyone. With that said, Comixology has their own recommendations for formatting and layout and I think indie creators with an eye towards eventually publishing on Comixology should get used to using them as a standard so that when you do make the eventual jump to submitting, you'll avoid as many headaches as possible.
Standard US Comic Book Page Print Dimensions (According to Comixology)
File type: PDF
BLEED SIZE: 6.875” x 10.437”
This is the TOTAL SIZE of your page files including a 0.125” bleed on all sides. The bleed will be trimmed off so artwork that goes to the edge of trim should bleed off the page. Make sure all artwork fills the bleed area.
TRIM SIZE: 6.625” x 10.187”
This is the actual page size of the book when trimmed, folded & stapled.
LIVE AREA: 6.125” x 9.687”
Also known as “safe zone.” This is the area that your lettering should be contained within, to ensure it’s not too close to the trim.
Double Page Spread:
BLEED SIZE: 13.5” x 10.437”
TRIM SIZE: 13.25” x 10.187”
LIVE AREA: 12.75” x 9.687”
To ensure your art/lettering doesn’t get lost in the gutter, leave a 0.5” type gutter down the middle. This is especially necessary for thick collections.
Fees: After processing fees, 50%.
Publishing on Comixology for indie comic book creators can definitely be seen as the "end game." That is, it should definitely be where you see your work eventually being published, but not necessarily right out of the gate. There's just too many gatekeepers and requirements for me to endorse aiming for this at the beginning of your comic making career. For those who have had a few projects under their belts and are looking for the next plateau, definitely start investing your time in the platform.
Madefire has a special place in my heart. They're the plucky digital comic book startup that have kept going while the talking heads of comic book-dom have doubted their staying power pretty much since the get-go…if they mention them at all. While Comixology has been soaking up the limelight, Madefire has quietly been busy building a digital comic book platform with all the potential to rival them. While they were lacking the big name publishers for several years, recently they've added DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, and Image to their roster bulking up their offerings. They're also platform ubiquitous which even includes virtual reality. If you want to know what the future of comics looks like, you'll want to keep an eye on Madefire.
Their standout feature? Motion. Comics on Madefire can take advantage of their unique platform to make books where panels jump out at you with music, movement, and sound effects to create an immersive reading experience. They have a ton of free motion comics to download so I definitely recommend seeing this for yourself and imagining the potential of your own work in a motion comic format.
Now, publishing with Madefire...is a different story.
I'm honestly a little perplexed by the whole process and I think it's a barrier they should work on going forward if they want to provide a viable platform for indie creators.
Firstly, you'll need to use their Motion Book Tool to create your book whether it's motion or not. This runs in a browser using Flash (yuck) and is generally hard to understand how to use. You'll need to upload your image files and if you do a motion comic; text bubbles, sounds, FX, etc that they refer to as assets. They provide a handful of premade assets in a quick start guide that you can use, but you're pretty much on your own after that. I've found the Motion Book Tool to be a bit buggy and dated-looking (like much of their website). Using their 41 PAGE "JUMP START GUIDE" (p.s. 41 pages is NOT a jump start) I attempted to create a motion comic of my short comic, Gemini. After an hour or so of frustration, I gave up. Either I don't possess the design chops to sit through the laborious task of motion comic creation (quite plausible) or the tools provided just need some work, simple as that.
I love what Madefire is trying to do and I think they certainly have a place in the world of digital comics. They're also the non-Amazon choice that lets you buy all the big name comics in-app, if those things are important to you. For those reasons I've included them, but they may not be your first choice for where to publish your comics. At least until they've streamlined the submission process. Here's to hoping.
Gumroad is one of my favorite online marketplaces to sell your goods. For one, it's very simple to use, both for sellers and for buyers. You don't actually even need to make a Gumroad account to purchase something, you just need an email address. You can even offer your digital products for free. One of the biggest features of Gumroad is that it can also function as your email funnel. Every purchase (even free ones) collects the emails of your customers which you can then update via Gumroad itself in a simple interface or export your list for use on another platform. I can't overstate it enough that this is INCREDIBLY valuable to creatives for growing your business. I can't think of any other platform that allows you to directly contact your customers about new or updated products.
Fees: (Free Version) 8.5% + $0.30 (USD) per sale, (Paid Version / $10 per month) 3.5% + $0.30 (USD) per sale.
Since Gumroad sells your work, however you make it, there are no restrictions about formatting dimensions or anything like that. It’s incredibly open. Which may mean that yes, the comic reading experience may be inconsistent between different creators, but I think as an entry point to putting your work out there, Gumroad is the way to go.
Hosting your comics on your own website gives you the most control over how your comic is presented and will probably let you keep the most profit of a sale than any of the other publishing options. For most websites though, you'll have to know at least a little bit about how to set one up.
I personally use Squarespace for my hosting and as user-friendly as it is, there's still a learning curve. The other hurdle is getting people to find your comic. While the main marketplaces have name recognition and a wide user-base, you will be doing the heavy lifting on your own site of pulling in eyeballs. For this reason I recommend using your own site as a good jumping-off point to your creative projects, but not the sole location of where they reside. Unless you're one of a handful of well known webcomics, you just don't have the web traffic to be successful. Let someone else who already has created an infrastructure to offer, sell, and deliver your comic do the dirty work so you can back to the job of actual comic book creating.
Those are the main avenues I have to suggest for putting your comic out into the great wide world. Now get to creating so you can start publishing!
Have any other suggestions? Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know!
Here in Chattanooga, Tennessee, we’re lucky to have a huge used bookseller called McKays. It’s a fantastic place to sell the books, comics, CDs, records, electronics, and games that no longer “spark joy”.
Thanks, Marie Kondo.
The other day I rifled through their expansive art book collection and found some gems I thought I’d share. Gotta love getting some quality books at super affordable prices. These will be great to study from and pick up at any odd moment to get inspired.
Here’s what I got…
First of all, my wife blew my mind when she pulled 100 Tuesday Tips by Griz and Norm off the shelf that I had somehow completely missed. Griz and Norm are two Disney artists who teach drawing online through their popular series of Tuesday Tips they post for free online on Instagram and Twitter. This was amazing for several reasons. One, you can’t actually buy this book in stores, only direct from them. I’ve been wanting to for a while now, but just haven’t set aside the money. I’ve been following Griz and Norm for a long time and I love that they put out their work for free, but also sell printed copies. Well, this copy was criminally cheap. Couldn’t pass it up.
Also, since every copy comes right from the artists themselves, they’re signed…
How cool is that? Prized member of my art library. I still can’t believe someone sold their copy, but their loss is my gain.
The drawing lessons in 100 Tuesday Tips are fantastic for learning lots of dynamic types of movement and character design that are vital in positions such as Animator for instance. Hey, I love learning all kinds of drawing techniques. You can’t learn too much, that’s not a thing. Learn all kinds of methods to do the thing you love.
Lots of great design ideas throughout.
The next find…
Typically I steer away from any books with “How to Draw something” in the title because usually they aren’t very good at teaching you to draw anything, they just show a few process shots of how established artists go from quick pencil sketches to highly-rendered finished pieces. They’re also usually overpriced for a thin amount of information. I made an exception for this cheap copy of How to Draw Zombies. If nothing else, it’s fun to look through. I do love zombies.
Also, it amuses me that this is put out by the same Walter Foster Publishing that put out those huge mid-century art books for learning everything from drawing to oil painting. I even have an old display sign (see above) from a Walter Foster book display.
There’s some very nice looking horror compositions in this one. Worth the price of admission, especially if you can pick up a used copy.
This next book is called Tolkien’s World. It’s a relatively thin book at 144 pages from the late 90’s, but it’s a very nice compilation of some of the best Tolkien-inspired artwork that came out before the movies. Indeed, many of the visuals from the movies were inspired or directly taken from the artwork seen in this book.
And it was $3, so pretty hard to say no to a nice clean copy that will be a great coffee table book if nothing else.
The book isn’t put out anymore, but it looks like you can get an equally cheap copy from lots of online sellers should you be interested.
Last, but not least was the weighty tome, The Art of Fallout 4.
Now, I am not a gamer (other than if you count mobile), but I’m a huge fan of the Fallout series. Fallout 4 looked like such an enticing post-apocalyptic world, I was very jealous of people who got to play it, but I was always more intrigued by the look and feel of the world itself. Luckily for people like myself, companies are compiling their concept and pre-production art for these kinds of projects in wonderful hardcover formats such as this.
Colored full page artwork galore in this book. It is a masterpiece of concept art and world design.
To me, it looks like they were able to compile almost every piece of concept art from Fallout 4. If you enjoy the post-apocalyptic genre, it is truly a thing to behold.
There are some amazing examples of different environmental effects on the same scene as show below…
These are examples of the different times of day and weather events one an experience in the game, but for an artist, it’s an invaluable resource for how to conceptualize different paths in your environmental art. Amazing stuff.
Even very early concept sketches are included in The Art of Fallout 4. These are some of the sketches I love to see the most, “napkin sketches” if you will. Such simple designs that evolved into a highly-rendered and immersive world. A delight to page through.
While I’m still trying to be good about acquiring too much “stuff” these days as I’ve made downsizing my continual goal, I will definitely keep used book stores in mind for the exceptional deals one can find on art books for reference and inspiration.
Have you gotten any art books lately that you love?
Composition, as defined in this article, is “the term used to describe the arrangement of the visual elements in a painting or other artwork.” There’s probably a million other ways and angles to define it, but essentially what it breaks down to is how an image looks. When an illustration has good composition, it’s almost invisible, it just works. When it doesn’t have good composition, most people can tell that something is just off about it.
I’ve been learning more about incorporating composition in my own work. I’ve been taking Austin Batchelor’s Udemy course: The Digital Painting MEGA Course: Beginner to Advanced. In it, there’s an exercise to take ten movies scenes and separate them into light, middle, and dark tones. This practice helps you learn what makes a pleasing composition that also intrigues. It helps you see an image in terms of the three basic values so you can quickly dissect it and create one.
I also incorporated a study of the Rule of Thirds into each study. The Rule of Thirds is defined on Wikipedia as a “guideline that proposes an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.” So the basic premise is you break an image canvas into nine equal sections and if you place important elements as the intersections it will create more visual appeal. It's a visual concept that once you start looking for it is in EVERYTHING. TV shows, movies, advertising, art of all kinds. It’s literally everywhere.
So with that in mind I pulled key frames from ten movies to study the composition of value and the implementation of the Rule of Thirds. Give it a try with your own favorite scenes to see how they match up.
It’s amazing to see how many iconic scenes match up perfectly with the Rule of Thirds and have really dynamic composition. Probably no coincidence there. Back to practicing!
Recently I worked on a vintage tourism style poster of the Matterhorn from Disneyland for an old friend of mine. I absolutely love those style posters, especially for places that are fictional so when she gave the Matterhorn as a subject I was very excited to experiment with it.
Here is my page of thumbnails I did to get an idea of composition and what worked. The Matterhorn itself in Disneyland has a different shape based on what angle you’re looking at it from so I had to decide which one I liked best. I did some image searches for vintage photos of the ride so I could get an idea what it looked like back then as some parts have been updated such as the luge cars.
I also played with a crest style border seen above, but that’s probably more for a patch or something like that. Here’s the finished piece...
Hand lettering seems like it would bother my perfectionist tendencies, but one of the best things about vintage posters like this are the non-perfect, hand-lettering. Graphic design can make lettering so crisp and clean that it loses some of its charm for me.
Anyway, I was really happy with the end result, aside from the fact that I didn’t get to include a Yeti because I ran out time. Love that guy. Maybe on the next one.