Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lets Draw Sherlock, or Apparently "My Personal Style" Means Aliens

Last week I participated in an online collaborative project on Tumblr called Lets Draw Sherlock. The idea was to gets lots of artists to draw the same photo with their own interpretation and style. The photo used as reference was one of the promo shots for season two of Sherlock.

The reference

My illustration
Because you know the first time you saw Sherlock, you thought he was an alien.
(Maybe I watch too much Star Trek)

Lets Draw Sherlock had over 600 participants, and with skill levels varying from professional to art student to people that don't often draw but wanted to be a part of the community.


There was a wide range of interpretation, from cartoons to meticulously rendered graphite drawings. I've posted some of my favorites. Please be aware that some the blogs that are sourced are likely to have pornography on them. Tumblr doesn't have contrent restrictions.


Fan artists have a pretty bad reputation. Lots of people think they are fanatics that take someone else’s creation and redo it (poorly) because they have no creativity of their own. They are wrong.

As someone with one foot in the fan community (I rarely make fan art, because I usually don’t have the time, but I spent a large amount of my time in high school drawing very poorly rendered drawings of Draco Malfoy) and as someone who is inspired daily by the enormous amount of talent and passion that people share with the world for free I feel like I have the responsibility to explain fandom to people who do not get it.

A lot of fan artists (for my purposes fan artists applies to artists, sculptors, authors, musicians, and roleplayers, but I’m going to stick with visual art verbs for simplicity) are artists or aspiring artists who are looking for subjects to draw, and they choose a pre-made character and setting, maybe because of ease or because of a lack of time or because it’s character or setting they love. Or perhaps a character that has a special significance to them, maybe because they relate to them or the character represents an aspect of themselves they would like to explore more (or because they're really hot).


The most unusual of the entries!

Some people use fan art as practice for their original art. Or maybe they enjoy the fan community. They enjoy the cons, and meeting people who love the same things they do. They love talking about who Clara Oswald really is, and were The Doctor and Rose getting it on, or did their relationship remain chaste?

Maybe they like thinking about these characters. What are they like outside of the parameters of the show/book/movie. What kind of music do they like, what do they do when they’re not crime solving, what are their friendships like. What if they were in the 50’s? Would Sherlock be a greaser? What Hogwarts House would they be sorted into? What would they be like if they were women? What if they were in love?

Yes, Sherlock would most certainly be a greaser, and...

...apparently the only thing that would change if they
were ladies is that they would have incredible hair.

Either way, they’re just people, super creative people, who are celebrating something that means a lot to them, and they do not deserve condescension. They should be encouraged, because with some positivity they might go on to do incredible things, either of their own creation or they’ll become Marvel comic artists or work on the set of a show they love (Or, if you’re David Tennent, tell everyone in your high school that you’re going to be on Doctor Who one day, actually get cast as The Doctor, and then marry one of the previous Doctor’s actor’s daughter).


Actually one of my favorites. Fandom humor is some of the best humor.

“…because nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. Hank, when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”
Lets Draw Sherlock's Tumblr (forewarning, sometimes they're naked, though I think they're all from the waist up)

Further educational (and entertaining!) reading if you're interested in learning about fan communities: 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Lion and the Mouse, OR I don't have time for this sh*t

Every inch of Jerry Pinkney's The Lion and the Mouse is just about the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I almost cried the first time I saw it.

This is the cover. THE COVER. THERE ARE NO WORDS.
This book is unbearably clever.

There will be a more in depth review when I'm not scrambling to get Mothership Goose done.

Monday, April 15, 2013


First color proof of Mothership Goose! Printer on my home printer and taped together. Classy!

Edit: Now available for sale on Amazon!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Advice to an Artist, OR Crying's Okay, As Long As You Kick Some Ass Afterward

The Tattooed Lady
When I was in college I had a teacher tell me to my face that I could not draw what I wanted to draw because I was not good enough at drawing and therefore I needed to stylize. Mind you, this was in Introduction to Illustration (my second illustration class) and I was in my first semester as a junior (of course I wasn't good enough yet, jerk face). My immediate response was to go to the bathroom and cry. My second response was to call my mother and cry at her. My third step, after Mom had talked me down and told me he was full of shit (though that's not exactly how she said it, my mother's a lady, thank you very much) was to kick some drawing ass.

The assignment was to design a circus with the performers and then make an billboard advertisement.

Please forgive oldschool Carly Art, I was into collage and patterns for a while.

Clearly my drawing skills were so bad that I had to be stopped for the good of the nation.

Up to this point in my class, I hadn't been working on this level, but I had consistently drawn people in relatively correct proportions. I admit the faces are kind of cartoonish, but my drawing skills made a big leap forward during this project. This was what I wanted to be doing! People who look like people, and things that look like things! And it seemed feasible for the first time. I was so very happy with this project, and I turned it in expecting him to eat his words.

However, the only comment the professor had was a dismissive, "Nice drawings," as he walked pass my display. And I still didn't get a very good grade.

The thing is, and this is important, he didn't want me to draw better. He wanted me to stylize like he does. He wanted me to be modern and edgy, and he said realism doesn't have a place in illustration. Which is bullshit, crack open a Society of Illustrators Annual, you narrow minded asshole. There may not be as many, but they're out there. And they're good.

When you're at art school your teachers are going to push you to "Find your voice," and "Have your own style." And they want you to find it from the get go and spend the rest of the time refining it. That's not a problem if you've been drawing a certain way since you were a kid, as many of my classmates had.

I had drawn anime and manga and super goofy cartoons and painstakingly rendered people and objects from life. I knew in theory how I wanted to draw. I wanted to combine those things.  I was raised by a realist painter, and my favorite books as a child were the most artfully drawn ones (Check out Jan Brett's work sometime, she's great). My professors were telling me that it was old fashioned and boring and hard to get right so I should just pick a "style" instead.

Oh yeah, real boing and old fashioned.
This was my first piece worked the same way I work now.
It was supposed to be a color comp for a painting, and ended up changing the way I work.

I didn't pick a method of working (the word "style" give me the heebie geebies) until my last semester at school. I had given approximately 100% of my teachers heart attacks because every project I did was in a completely different medium, because I still hadn't found one that was right. My drawing skills kept getting better because I had a goal to work to, and I knew what I wanted. If I had stylized the way they wanted me to from the beginning I think I would hate illustration.

This has been a very long winded way of saying this:

  • Do not settle for working any way other than the way you want
  • Don't let them tell you it's too hard. Don't let them tell you it's too weird, or two old fashioned, or not what everyone else is doing. 
  • Do not settle for noodle arms and round eyes if you want to be Caravaggio. 
  • Do not let them tell you your big toothed monsters are okay, but you should be drawing people. 
  • Do not settle because it's too hard to do it the way you want. You will get better if you keep at it. 

Monday, April 8, 2013


Until now, I haven't been too worried about a cohesive color palette in Mothership Goose, because for the most part, I have a sort of natural palette. Unfortunately, I have recently discovered my natural palette is almost completely mid-tones. That is easily compensated for in simple and graphic illustrations, but the ones I have created for this book have been increasingly elaborate.

This is my illustration for Little Miss Muffet. It looked pretty darn good to me, but I knew I was having some problems with the flower stems bleeding into the background, and the spider's back legs fading away, so my mom made a suggestion that I'd heard a million times before and I've used before and it still just about blew my mind (no it's okay, she's a painter, and we're each other's best critiquer, it's not like when other people's mom's talk about their art). She told me to look at in in black and white.

Everything's the same value! No wonder everything was bleeding into everything else. It's a mess! And every page was like this!

After I identified the problem, I tried to separate every image into Black, White, and Mid-tone in clumps so my objects would be more defined. I like to keep it super simple, and my style doesn't really translate to chiaroscuro shading or anything crazy. I did it like so:

Yeah, check out those sweet scribbles.

It sounds weird but seeing it like that gave me permission to use super light colors and super dark colors.

Blue Spider is Best Spider.

And for the reveal- Did I actually successfully assert my dominance over value?

You bet your butt I did.

Edit: Now available for sale on Amazon!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tardar Sauce OR Flying Rodents Ripped My Flesh

Have a list of some things that I like:

  • Rusty Stuff- If something's been forgotten or left behind it gives it a certain mystery. Stumbling upon a key hanging on rusted, broken barbed wire, sends my mind whirling. I could have keep the key, or I could leave it to jump start someone else's imagination. I left it.

  • Pulp illustrations- The drama and hyperbole is what draws me to pulp art. The colors are bright, the acting is big, and the subject is never boring. Being serious is boring. Being so serious it's hilarious is best.

  • Grumpy Cat- Cats are suposed to be majestic and elegant. They're witches' familiars and spirits walking the earth. Maybe we feel we should be something too. We should be smarter, or stronger, or girly-er. But sometimes, there's something or someone that looks how we feel on the inside. Enter Stage Left: Tardar Sauce, who's legs are too short and don't work right, who's perpetually in a foul mood, and we love her just the way she is.  It's okay to be yourself, and it should be celebrated. 

Source: Grumpy Cat Blog
(Mostly, though, I just think her face is hilarious. I go to her blog when I'm sad and I just laugh, and it never fails to make me feel better.)

  • Toys- Toys are a wonderful example of things (that aren't people) having buckets of personality. Every toy has it's own physicality and backstory. They're bright, they make me happy, and they remind me that there's always time to play.


  • The Talent of Others- There are people in this world who are lovingly crafting beautiful things, more beautiful than you can believe. And sometimes they just give it away. Take for example: Lobster

This typeface is truly a labor of love. It changes when you type (but I think only in like, photoshop and fancy programs) so that the cursive tails end up in places that make sense. Brilliant. It's free to download and use. Excellent. It's beautiful and stylish. Even better.

Download Lobster

The generosity and talent of other people never stop delighting me, and I hope it never does.

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fools OR I'm sure no one wants to hear more complaining!

It's April Fool's Day and I have nothing really to post about other than Mothership Goose. I don't want to wear it out, so here's a video of my fiance's cat with a tissue box stuck on her head: