We have all heard that practice makes perfect. After almost two years of Stories by Mom, I learned practice makes you realize your old work looks like poo.
I recently shared this sentiment in one of my author/illustrator groups and had a big response. I had quite a few hahas, likes, and #truth. But I also got a lot of encouragement and insight. I love hearing other people’s perspectives and stories. So here is mine.
Practice makes what…
Also check out, “Illustrating Children’s Books,” Martin Salisbury.
It took so long to perfect my Abigail character, but when I did, I fell in love. She was so adorable! I had so much fun drawing every activity. I was so excited to publish that I messed up, a lot. But I will save my publishing journey for another time. Today, I address the illustrator part of me.
- Hand-sketching in pencil
- Tracing in felt pen using my new fancy light board
- Photographing it with my phone
- Uploading it to Photoshop
- Cleaning it only with levels and the magic wand
- Filling with solid color
- Resizing and finalizing my page layout
Time, study, and practice is the only way to learn. I had to complete, “I Miss You All Day All Week” “Naughty Ned and Wild Hair Sue” and “Talking Tiger is Tough” to know what I can do, as well as what I should do.
Hand-sketching in pencil, unless I get a fancy Citaq, Wacom, or even IPad with Procreate and Apple Pencil, I cannot draw digitally. Two years ago, I didn’t even know what any of this was.
Tracing Tracing in felt pen on my Samsung Tablet with Stylus, [Amazon Link] I know this has its limits, but it is a great stepping stone in the right direction. Other options include using the above tablets or even digitally trace using Photoshop or Illustrator. Look it up on Youtube. (I watched so many videos I don’t have a link L ) But, it is a pretty cool technique to learn. But today, I use the free app, ibis Paint X. It has been my favorite free Android app. I tried Adobe Sketch and Draw. They were so frustrating. But find what works for you. Youtube has some great videos or reviews and tutorials. I will mention YouTube a lot. Thank you to everyone who takes the time to make these videos. I really think I could watch people draw all day. It is so satisfying.
Uploading it to Photoshop Ibis Paint X, I will upload to Photoshop in a little bit. When you upload to Ibis, be sure to extract the image to clean the background even further. Now it varies from here. Currently, I trace in a black line on its own layer and then color it on a separate layer. I like to make coloring pages, so I save the file as PNG (this format prevents data loss that may occur with JPG).
Then I upload to Google Drive. Because it makes it so easy to keep organized and upload on your computer. Then I work on the art. Sometimes I keep the outline, other times I keep just the color. Sometimes I leave the background white, other times I attempt to make something dynamic. To me, learning backgrounds is harder than character development. But, the most important suggestion I have is to use layers! That way you get clean lines and can change something without changing the whole illustration.
Cleaning it only with levels and the magic wand, This was not a bad process. Levels are so important in Photoshop and I love the magic wand. But, it left my edges a little rough. So I learned to create working paths, feathered edges, better utilizing the lasso and pen, and using more layers! I also learned to create a grid with lines to help with size and perspective. I learned this all from Youtube! Yet, I still have so much to learn.
Filling a with solid color, Now, I usually color on my tablet and use various brushes to create a more visually interesting image. I also upload to Photoshop for more brushes and textures. You can create your own brushes or download free brushes, be sure to check their licensing agreements. Here I will not only Promote Youtube, but Pinterest is a great tool as well. Search drawing step-by-step and you’ll be amazed and the help out there. It also offers great inspiration for your next project.
So I know my work can get better, I see other artist performing “magic.” I never feel like I will figure that out. I remind myself, two years ago; I thought I couldn’t draw people. 18-months ago; I thought I couldn’t draw backgrounds. One-year ago; I didn’t think I could draw with texture. Six-months ago; I didn’t think I could create an image with depth. I know there is room to grow if I am willing to try.
I just have to get over the confidence hump, keep at it, and love what I am doing.
Also, follow and interact with other artists. On Twitter there are tons, #Colour_collective, #saturdayscribbles #pinchpunchpost #animalalphabets.
Participate in drawing groups.
But remember these things
- Don’t let perfection turn into procrastination. You won’t know until your grow.
- Be proud of your past work as it shows your growth. It is okay to still love it. I still love my Abigail character. I know it was the best I could do with the knowledge I had at the time. I love it for what it was. But I am moving forward.
- It’s normal to be tough on your work, but press on. I don’t know how many times I worked on a piece before bed thinking it was poo. But, when I woke in the morning I could see it wasn’t so bad and finished it. That feels pretty great.
- The best way to learn is to overlearn. Even if you are good at it, keep doing it again and again.
- You can learn the trick behind the magic if you look close enough. There is no trick, just process. There is no replacement for time, study, and practice.
- Your style will find you. Don’t force it.
- And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Pick and choose your advice.
- Being an artist is close to insanity. (No wonder Van Gough cut his ear.) Embrace it! This is all worth it in the end. You’re not crazy.