Sword commission

A lady commissioned me to do a couple of black and white illustrations for her upcoming novella (short story?).

Naturally, my tablet decided to crap out immediately. No amount of fiddling with the cord could induce it to work.

Fortunately I’d managed to get one sketch done. She asked for a particular kind of sword with vines of ivy wrapped around it. Here was the concept, working off a reference photo she provided:


I dumped it over into Illustrator and traced it all out in vector. I experimented with different ways of shading, and decided that gradients made it look too artificial. So I went with a pen stroke to give it an “illustration” look.


Here’s how it looks with leaves.


I’m on the fence about it so far–the leaves obscure the sword if I make them darker, and the whole image is too busy if I give them lots of detail. I’m tempted to print the thing out, add all the extra bits by hand with pen, and scan it back in. Illustrator doesn’t like crosshatching at all.

More vector dragon

Here’s how my vectory dragon is progressing. Doing big chunks of shading inside the lines is tricky. However, vector drawing makes scales and spikes easy! Draw a few, copy and paste over and over, and you’re done! I’m resizing spikes and scales a little as I go, so they don’t look too obviously copied.

It’s still very rough, but you can see where I’m trying to go with it. I don’t want it to immediately look like a vector pic. Those hard lines, though … those are what give it away.

Runaway dragon sketch

I’ve had a picture I’ve wanted to do for a while, but I’m gimped without my tablet. I wondered if I can make it look painty in Illustrator instead.

So here’s my crappy mouseart sketch.

A dragon running away from a sword-wielding knight of some sort.

Here’s the beginning vector trace:

My dragon started out green, then I put the trees in there and he vanished. So he’s orange now. I haven’t messed with the knight yet because the dragon gave me such fits. See that fold on the back of his knee on his near back leg? That took like fifteen minutes.

We’ll see if I can make this look as cool as it looks in my head. It definitely has promise at this point. Also, laugh at my crappy trees. They’ll be better later on. I just scribbled them in so I could see how the composition would go.


A tiger in vector. I traced over a photo and felt like a terrible artist for doing it. Usually I trace my own sketches in vector, but I was too brain-dead to do that tonight. Also thunderstorm. Makes me leery of pouring my heart and soul into artwork when it’s stormy and my compy might fry.

So here’s a tiger. He’s kind of spiffy looking.

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.

Vector art

I haven’t done any vector art in aaaages. I saw this fantastic vector artist on DA, and I wanted to attempt something similar.

I might be overreaching myself a bit, trying to keep it to just silhouettes, but I’m enjoying fiddling with it. Vector art is a lot of fiddling with nodes, moving this and curving that, and making sure all your outlines are good. It’s completely different from painting. More left-brain? I don’t know.

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted as I work on it. I’m not sure my values work the way I want, and my layers don’t work right yet, either.