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The Drawing Board
Interested in illustration? Drawing images that accompany news stories is a privilege that news illustrator Thomas Marsh relishes. Here’s a chance to look over his shoulder and see how he does it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Elves working finish

I was reminded of a Album cover for Fred Waring's Twas the Night Before Cristmas that my family grew up with (Album dates back to 1955) The illustration was by Norman Rockwell featuring Santa and some elves hiding behind the chair in which two children have fallen asleep. I wanted the Elves to be very small -- almost GI Joe size in comparison. (Cover image can be found on ebay)

There's more holiday opportunities coming next week. Several seasonal stage productions will be jockeying for attention next week so stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Elves at work

Howdy folks,

To keep the composition tight and economical, I abandoned any ‘assembly line, or mass production ideas. I chose rather to focus on just a few elves and one recognizable toy – the hobby horse. Since elves are diminutive, the hobby horse would be the largest portion of the images and the elves would become a sort of “frosting on the cake” – as it were. Each elf will have something different to do on the horse; one painting, another constructing and the last (three should be enough) can be attaching some yarn for the horse’s mane.
For the look of the elves, I was initially seeing a sort of Rankin and Bass looking elf from the classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer special, (center sketch) but decided it would be more fun to create our own look with a more “seasoned” elf. These are older guys that have been at it for years and know their way around the shop. (Bottom sketch)

More to come later …

Monday, November 26, 2007

Digital photos: When to “punt”

Howdy Folks,

This week I’m doing an illustration for the cover of our Entertainment Tri-State section.
The feature is on the upcoming holiday Lion’s Club Arts and Crafts Show. We had some images submitted but unfortunately there were some problems with them.

I’m going to take a moment to discuss some general guidelines on submitted pictures.

A good cover photograph is hard to come by. Not only does it need to be visually compelling, as a cover photo it needs to be composed to allow empty space for headline, body copy and other promo elements. It also needs to have high clarity and resolution.
The size of a typical photo album snapshot is about 5 to 6 inches at its widest point. This is what most folks are used to when they talk about picture size. For a two or three column photo anywhere in the rest of the newspaper, that’s a fine size. But for this cover, the finished image will need to occupy about a 9-inch square.

Now, anytime you increase the physical size of an image, the image resolution decreases proportionately. Anytime you blow up a photo of your uncle Elbert’s face, you also blow up his big bushy eyebrows and the whole image begins looking blurry.

So right off the bat, any submitted photo print would be at a disadvantage, as we’d have to nearly double the size to fill the space.

Digital image sizes are often difficult for most people to judge because the only reference to file size is two numbers; physical size (in inches or picas), and resolution in (pixels/inch.) I don’t know of many people who pay much attention to those numbers as much as they do the image file size (usually about 300K.) When you send an attachment in an email, the paperclip icon includes this file size.

A good rule of thumb for submitting cover quality images is to be 8 to 10 inches and at least 200 dpi (dots per inch.) This gives a file size of about 8 megabytes.
Sometimes the digital images we receive are of printable quality (200 dpi but the physical size is only a few inches.
The photos for this week were at a high resolution of 300 but only 1.3 inches wide.

Secondly, photos of an arts and crafts show or any other exhibition, for that matter, invariably consist of people looking at stuff. So aside from concentrating on one particularly unique craft (such as the cool stone carvings by Earl Grey that can be used large) there tends to be a lot of background clutter of other exhibitioners and a crowd of folks milling about. They also tend to be a bit dark.

O.K., My digital sermon is done. With that being said, we’ll need to “punt” photowise this week and look for a compelling image that would promote a holiday arts and crafts show. So Dave Lavender has suggested a drawing of Christmas elves in a toy making process.

Tune in later and I’ll have some rough ideas by then.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Springboard Finish

Hey folks,

Sorry it took me a while to get this one out. I'm on hiatus this week in addition to a couple days last week in which to move my family of five and all our stuff to a new house (I never knew we had so much junk -- any parent out there would know exactly what I'm talking about.) I had intended to post sooner, but the computer was off-line for an unforeseen extended period of time.

Unfortunately, this break also means that I won't be posting anything for the Herd's season finale' against Alabama-Birmingham -- a team I like to deal with, because dragons can be fun.
Regardless of the Herd's season coming to an end, I will continue writing and sharing illustrative opportunities with you -- it could prove more insightful, as I'll show you how to look for opportunities, and every illustrators dream -- how to make your own assignment. And how I do caricatures of various celebrities.

So, we'll just have to see where this leads us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Springboard" rough ideas

Last week's great dominating performance against a strong conference opponent sure made me feel good. Now if the Herd can continue that momentum for the remaining games and keep its demons of the past from cropping up again, they will have finally achieved its formula for success.
Anthony Hanshew had used the term "Springboard in his column last week and I liked the idea -- especially after playing the ECU Pirates, and you know, the whole "walk the plank" thing.
To simplify the composition, I decided to make the pirate into the plank (pretty straight-forward) and having Marco jumping on the Houston Cougar.

Next, I wanted to work on the expression of the Cougar -- at first making him seem unaware. But in doing that he seemed disinterested. I also would have missed out on getting some good reactionary facial expression. As I worked on the initial cougar, I realized he looked more like a Wildcat, so I went back online and researched the cougar face.
The wildcat has pointed ears, and bushy fur on both jowls and chin -- this gives his head a more "pear" shape. The cougar, on th4e other hand, has short rounded ears, slightly wider chin, wider-set eyes, and generally shorter fur overall.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Its Own Worst Enemy: Finish

I decided the simplest and most direct image would be playing off the Victrola idea. I had toyed with the idea of having Marco's tongue wrapped around his head, but that would have obviously obscruerd his all-important facial expressions. Then I thought to have him standing on his tongue, but to do that, the tongue would have been so long and oversized that it may have been confusing as to what it actually was. (It also made for a clunky, uninteresting composition.
So we've simply tied it in a knot -- giving us the opportunity to have a good facial expression and getting good gesture with the hands. The kind of gesture when the hands are ready and anxious to help with something, but are unsure of what to do, so they become twitchy.

Good luck Herd!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Early ideas: Their own worst enemy

O.K. I’ve DONE the ‘Slow Start’ illustration already.
I’ve drawn the “Avoiding Mistakes” motif.
I’ve even done the “Keep Plugging Away” idea.

If its not one problem, then its another — and once the second problem is dealt with, the first one pops up again as fresh as ever.
This season has become a broken record for the Herd as it continually pounds itself on the head with a sledgehammer. And as it has been said, the benefit of smacking yourself in the head with a sledgehammer is …
it feels sooo good when you stop.

Hmmm. There may be a couple ideas right there …

Stay tuned …

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Storming the Knights finish

The biggest thing on this was getting the catapult to look structurally correct and mot just a confusing mass of timber. I obviously shrunk the Knight down enough to look as if he’s at a distance but not so far as that you couldn’t see the look on the horses face.
I made some modifications to Marco as well. I moved the head up and elongated the neck to avoid the awkward line from the bridge of his nose down the shoulder. (See previous sketch.)

In the early sketch stages, you have to be ready to re-adjust things like this. Its best to break up these straight lines cause compositionally, they can create confusion of what it is you’re representing AND direct the eye away from where you want it to be led. Pay attention to your image’s overall shape. A simple outline is compositionally boring. Breaking up concise outer edges adds interest to the shape. Also, dropping in negative space in the middle areas — particularly, in the catapult, adds an airiness that keeps the image from being clunky.
Finally, I lengthened Marcos right arm and moved it away from the rope, so as to give more visibility to the knife on the rope.

Good luck Herd.

Friday, November 2, 2007

A battle of Medieval proportions

This week, we’ve got the Herd’s newfound deep passing game going up against Central Florida’s talented run-heavy offense. In fact, 64% of the Golden Knights’ offensive plays are on the ground. Running back Kevin Smith is the #8 active rusher with, 1,260 yards and 16 touchdowns. Last week at Southern Miss, Smith and quarterback Kyle Israel combined for 217 yards on 51 attempts.

Since it IS the Knight’s — we’ll have no problem putting one on a noble steed to represent the running attack.

I had the medieval thought of archers and arrows flying, but that would make the composition too busy. So I decided a fun quirky thing would be to launch Marco from a catapult.