Friday, June 14, 2013

Most Invaluable Art Books #1: Framed Ink by Marcos Mateu-Mestre

With every new illustration comes a cluttered desk. It's just gonna happen.

Half of my clutter is always a pile of books, and I noticed that every time, it is any of a combination of 5 books that have stayed with me since my years at SCAD. In the absence of teachers, books are key.

Starting with the one I use the most (or more like, every single time):

#1: Framed Ink: Drawing and Composition for Visual Storytellers, by Marcos Mateu-Mestre

©Marcos Mateu-Mestre

Composition is my weakest point, because I gravitate towards straight-forward, flat, centered, designs, a combination which generally doesn't create very alluring compositions (unless if you're talking about Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, where this worked beautifully). My illustrations would be pretty, yes, but they weren't stunning, and Framed Ink has taught me that this is because were lacking a story.

Jennifer Ely, a badass artist and friend from SCAD, introduced me to this book after I saw how much her work had improved after reading it (not that her work wasn't awesome before).

Love me some popcorn clouds. Aren't they gorgeous?
©Jennifer Ely

By then, the book was sold out and out of print for a few months, but I snagged a copy the minute they were available again on Amazon. It has since proved invaluable every single time I have taken it out for a new illustration.

Mateu-Mestre is all about storytelling and what he calls "composing shots with a purpose." The book is packed with stunning examples drawn by the man himself, with straightforward explanations of all the calculated factors he uses to manipulate the audience's emotions and draw their attention toward anything he pleases.

It's mountains more than just playing with the angles and positions of elements to make things look nice, which is how I had always approached composition. It's about the direction the character or object is facing, whether his eyes are above or below the horizon line, whether he imposingly fits in the frame or is the smallest, visually constricted speck, whether he is surrounded by light or dark, and just so much more that I can't fit anything substantial about it in a dinky little paragraph.

This book is invaluable because it teaches by example, that a stunning illustration is one that tells a story (and an emotionally stirring one at that). I've used it on a few projects so far, including my latest Gardenia illustration, and now it is never far from my desk.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Flower She Picked - Instigatorzine #19

Back in April, I sent an e-mail to my buddy Narciso, and I said, Narciso, I didn't do anything in March, give me something to do. And because he is such a nice person, he did, and then the next week a whole universe of everything to do collided in such a way that I was literally (yes, literally) eating, sleeping and drawing for two weeks straight (until I was abruptly forced to stop because of a medical emergency, but that's a story for another time).

Narciso is the co-founder of Instigatorzine, an awesome Art and Literature magazine. You may recall him and his magazine from when I did the Living Cemetery piece.

Cover Artwork © Elias Shamir.

I picked another poem, this time by Danny P. Barbare, titled "A Flower She Picked." It's lovely writing, but you're gonna have to get a copy if you'd like to read it! This issue has work from Kali Ciesemier, one of my favorite illustrators, and it has some badass reptilian cover art, as you can see above.

Out of the poem I took the keywords: gardenia, writer's block, windowsill, and a glass of water.

Kept drawing different types of windows on the thumbnail stage, until I realized that the sheet of paper could "suggest" the window without actually being one. The colours I originally envisioned were more like blue hour light, but the piece just wasn't coming together that way, and what you see here is is the deliciousness of colors that I got once the blue layer was turned off. Love these browns, so serene.

Poems are my favorite texts to illustrate. They are just so versatile.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Venado Cyborg - Cyborg Deer

Last Wednesday a friend called to tell me that an article she's been writing for the local newspaper will be published soon and she needed some pictures to go with it. She asked if I could get an illustration done by Sunday, and heck yes I did:

"Cyborgs, draw your interpretation of them," with full creative freedom! After discarding all the obvious bot types from popular culture, Robocop, Giant Mechas, and countless anime characters, I figured there's not many animal or plant cyborgs out there, and soon enough I was doodling robotic mermaid tails on cats (mmm, whales) and automated watering cans on cacti.

It wasn't until I drew a bull with hammers for horns that I realized antlers would be so much more interesting, think of all the tools that could be attached, a deer or an elk with antlers like a Swiss knife! The most tools added in the comp stage were about 8 (including: a hammer, a clock, a magnifying glass, a wrench, a magnet), but I narrowed it down to what you see above, because 1) I wanted them to interact with each other (create a story) or serve a function other than being there for quantity, 2) I wanted elegance versus the sharp intensity of metal from a traditional cyborg (apparently even cyborgs can be traditional).

Unfortunately, my deer of the many tools wasn't handy enough for the mood/continuity/style the editor was looking for in the pictures, so the illustration was killed.

Regardless, this was a very satisfying project. Full creative freedom plus two of my favorite subject matters: animals, and combined objects; and I finally figured out some tricks I've been trying to get the hang of in Photoshop.

Always learning something new with each illustration.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Awesome Like A Possum

Did you miss me? I am sorry. It has been a long time. Let's get this started. I have lots to share.

First: We've been published! Thanks to Matter Deep Publishing, The Electric Keychain Collective has published their first children's book!

What's it about? This:   

"A well spoken alligator (drawn by me!) contemplates whether it would be more fun to be someone else. A pharaoh sparrow, or a steampunk skunk perhaps? Possums are awesome, moose are footloose, but as our alligator decides, it’s always better to be your magnificent self. Awesome like a Possum is drawn by the seven different artists that make up The Electric Keychain Collective."

Yes, ONE picture book, SEVEN different illustrators! With the initative, art direction and general awesomeness of Carly Strickland, and the elegant prose of Will Rankeillor, of course.

Did you want to see it? Check out the book's video, awesomely read by Carly, with fun background music:

SWEET, right? Treat yourself or the children in your family by picking up a copy on Amazon!

These are my illustrations: 

"If I could be someone other than me, who in the world would I choose to be?"
"But am I graceful and elegant, like a squirrel with curls?"
"It's fun to pretend all the things I could be, but I just want to be magnificent me!"
"See you later, Alligator!"
Did you notice the birds? Richard Scarry was one of my favourite illustrators when I was a little Tati, and if you pay close attention, you'll find semi-hidden cute little jokes in his drawings. That was my inspiration for the birds, which imitate the alligator at the beginning, and wear his costumes in the end.

Did the birds learn anything? I don't know, maybe that's just the way they are.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Night Circus Ship

Quick updates:
-My Guitar Train will be in CMYK Magazine #53, to be out in July!
-I now have a Tati Dengo Illustration fan page on Facebook. 
-Electric Keychain Collective is working on a children's book to be published by Matter Deep Publishing. "Like" us on Facebook to keep up with our progress.

Now onto my newest illustration!

The Night Circus is a book by Erin Morgernstern that came out last year.  It's a very dreamy story told in vignettes, about a circus that is very much unlike your traditional clown and balloon-filled colour explosion circus. I highly recommend it. Also, it's been optioned for a movie, so you might be hearing a lot about it in the future.

Recently on the author's Facebook fan page, they posted this quote from the book and asked for artists to illustrate it, so I did: 

“The ship is made of books, its sails thousands of overlapping pages, and the sea it floats upon is dark black ink.” — The Night Circus

I took artistic liberty with the description, especially with that of the sails, since mine clearly don't have overlapping pages as the quote says. I tried overlapping pages multiple times, from different angles and overlapping in different patterns, yet they always looked too busy and never seemed to mold to the shapes of the sails correctly. Eventually I had to accept that the shape of a sail is absolutely dependent on the wind blowing behind it, and fortunately, that shape just so happens to be very similar to the shape of an open book. Regardless of my sails not sticking to the description in the book, I really do like my solution, especially since it perfectly fits the rest of my portfolio (i.e.: guitar-train, trumpet-hummingbirds, seahorse-hairdryer).

This piece also took me longer than usual to finish partly because I was trying out a new paper I found, called "Bogus Recycled Rough Sketch." Since the colours of the Night Circus are black, white and a splash of red, I tried out this paper so that I would have a set mid-tone from the start. That way, I could more freely and quickly achieve the stark blacks and whites of this colour scheme than if I had started on white paper.

Once I took the piece into Photoshop, the rest of the work wasn't as simple as just desaturating the drawing (making everything grey). Back when I was taught how to paint, I was always told to never use black, UNLESS if I a) mixed the black with another colour so that it wasn't just pure black (this is because of how light reflects off of different colours) or b) made the black out of other colours (such as green + red).

In this case, I had a layer of the original drawing colourized to a deep red, and then superimposed it with a layer of the original black and white drawing. That gave me the wholesome black with a mild tinge of red that you see on the sea. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

SCAD Sidewalk Arts Festival 2012

Every year, SCAD hosts the Sidewalk Arts Festival in Forsyth Park. Every artist gets a square and a box of chalk. It is one of my favourite events at SCAD, since the whole community comes out to view the art. People come by your square and talk to you, comment on your art, share stories, etc. They also bring out all their cute dogs, and this year there was even a tortoise (it was huge)!

This is the square I drew, now in the alumni section:

I loved my toucan design. I'll certainly draw him again for a full-fledged illustration.

For the background I just went with freestyle whatever. Now I wish I had done something exclusively green and vibrant. I had an original plan for the background that I ended up scrapping because it was going to take too long and I wouldn't be done by judging time. I didn't win anyway, but I still really like my toucan.

Either way, I always intended to leave some of the sidewalk showing since I love the contrast of the dull gray of the sidewalk, which makes the chalk stand out.

The "Pura Vida Costa Rica" I added on a whim. We do have lots of beautiful tropical birds there, and who knows? Maybe some of the festival goers have visited CR too. So it was me saying: "I'm Costa Rican, come say hi."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

This is a scene from The Magician King by Lev Grossman. I loved the image of two lone chairs sitting on a walled beach at the end of the world, so I just had to draw it myself.

The original image is 11.5" x 8.25", but I cropped out the excess on the sides for a more snug composition. 

In the book, there is actually a really interesting door that opens the arch, but I figured it would be more appealing to have it open in this particular composition. The door would be better seen up close anyway,  so I may still draw that some day, especially since keys and keyholes are quite fun to draw.

I am very pleased with how the colours turned out, even though they're not anywhere close to the colours I had initially pictured when reading the book. I have no qualms about using different colours than what I imagined, seeing as these worked to my liking.