A boy and his dino, with color

Way back in this post, I drew this sketch, based off a lovely photo submitted to one of Pioneer Woman’s photo contests.

I’ve been attempting to color it lately.

I roughed in the colors, keeping this quote in mind from John Singer Sargent.

“Choose simple subjects, near objects at first. Do not try to make a pretty picture so much as to render truthful effects. Paint over the whole canvas with colors approximating the masses so as to obscure [sic–did he mean establish?] relations of tones while working—when finishing, ‘paint into paint’ when possible and in portraits, paint around the features in detail, using small brushes rarely.

“Always use a full brush and a larger one than necessary. Paint with long sweeps, avoiding spots and dots (‘little dabs’). Never think of other painter’s pictures or how some one else would treat a subject but follow your own choice of colors with exact fidelity to nature.” (Lifted from Gurney Journey)

I’m still trying to get the colors on the dinosaur right. I started off green with a red crest, but it was too … I don’t know … Jurassic Park. So I looked at a lot of artwork of Corythosaurus and kept the general color of horses in mind (earth tones), and I think I like this particular color palette.

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Making vector pics

Here’s how I went about making that vector dinosaur pic.

Vector art has to be very heavy on design, because that’s what it does very well: crisp, clear shapes. A lot of great interplay between positive and negative space. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to draw, so I sketched some thumbnails to figure out the design.

The one on the far right was the one I liked best, so I made a bigger, more detailed sketch.

Once I was happy with it, I dumped it into Illustrator and traced over it. Also, I looked at a lot of pictures of Australian Red Tingle Trees. They’re amazing and look like something that would need grazing dinosaurs to keep them in check.

Anyway, this was the rough stage I showed in my last post:

It was okay, but eh, it had some problems.

Here’s what it eventually became:

Here’s what it looks like with all the objects selected:

It has a lot of junk going on it. But vector graphics are nice like that. You can grab them, stretch them, flip them, and drag them wherever you want. It’s almost like making a scrapbook page, or a collage. Except your little paper shapes can be any size, shape and color you want, and you don’t have to mess with scissors. Heck, you don’t even need a stylus. Just a mouse.

Here’s a few individual elements selected.

That’s one leaf element. I just copied it, flipped it, rotated it, etc. about four times to really fill out the foreground foliage.

Here’s the black border taken off. You can see what it was hiding. Scrappy edges!

That’s one of my “cheaty” background shapes. You can’t really see much of it, but it plugs the holes between the trees nicely and gives the impression of dense forest. I have a lot of cheaty background shapes in this pic. You’re not supposed to be looking at the background in that spot, anyway. You’re supposed to be looking at the dinosaurs.

Moral of the story: making vector art isn’t like painting, but it’s still very right-brain creative. It’s just more like making a collage with paper cutouts.

You can get freakishly detailed, too. You just start with the silhouette of whatever you’re drawing, then put small shapes on top for features and details. I think I’m going to do some of that for my next one.