Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How I Became An Illustrator

Okay, so that title is a bit of an overstatement. Illustrator. Time will tell if it becomes an accurate description of what I do, but to date, I have only just begun learning to illustrate. Here's a brief telling of what actually is a, well, a brief tale.

For about sixteen months I had been contributing occasionally to a microstock photo agency. (Aside: If you're a creative that's down on microstock, I can understand, but I've come down on the "I'm cool with it" side of the microstock model. Times, methods, models, and technology changes. I figure those who don't appreciate the change, and don't adapt, risk falling behind as others take their place. Those who do adapt, succeed just as well as they did before. They can succeed by doing things how they used to, albeit with some modifications, or they can take the new road altogether. But some sort of adaptation must take place. For certain professions in this blink of an eye technological life we live in, that's how life seems to be. But this is a whole other topic. I'll discuss it further in depth at another time.)

So, I've been contributing photos to microstock, and wanted to take it further, so that I might be able to make a living this way. I submitted to other agencies, which brought more sales, but realized I needed help to do this at the scale I needed to. But I didn't have built-in help, and couldn't yet afford to higher help. So, I figured I'd supplement my photography with illustrations along the lines of Nick Monu's fantastic work, which is an image style that doesn't require illustrative skills so much as design skills. I thought, "I can do that." (After a little dabbling, I have yet to do that kind of illustration, as you can see by the few images in this post.)

Enter Inkscape 0.46, a free, open source vector illustration software (0.47 will be released within the week). Free is a whole heckuva lot cheaper than what I believed was my only alternative, Adobe Illustrator or a similar pricey package. Inkscape rocks. More on this nifty piece of software at a later time.
So, I downloaded Inkscape, dabbled, looked up tutorials and instruction from many sources online, and over the course of a few weeks felt pretty comfortable, and in a few weeks after that, even more comfortable. I studied the work of others, found a lot I liked, and few I really liked (including Steve Mack, Bob Staake, and Russell Tate), and began to make some work that was somewhat alright.

It's late, and I'm not feeling well, so I'll finish this up Thursday sometime, including a few illustrations.
Thursday: Okay, feeling worse, and better at the same time (Thanks D. Fish), and it's late again and so I'll get back to this post on Friday.

'kay, I'm back, six days later...

The topmost illustration was my first complete one. It was inspired by Maurizio Santucci's sweet 3-D paper illustration in the April '09 Popular Mechanics (an interesting article, to boot, about the improved technology that is behind the latest 3-D movie craze of late).

These last two illustrations are my effort at using texture within the vector software itself (click any image to see it bigger). Steve Mack uses Illustrator 10 to do his illustrations, from sketches all the way through to the final illustration. Even his texture is done in AI, which is
significant, since everyone who uses texture so heavily takes the vector image into Adobe Photoshop or some other bitmap software to add the texture. That's how he used to do it, but to streamline workflow he developed a means of texturing within AI. I wanted to emulate Mack's work somewhat (he has such good stuff), and the texture was key. Since he was hush hush about his vector texture technique, which by all appearances seems unique to him, I went out and tried to figure out what he might be doing. These final images are my first efforts. The last one, too, serves to counterbalance all the cheeriness in the first four illustrations above it. Bah humbug.

I've more to say about what I've learned and am learning about illustration, but that's the beginning, and enough if not too much for now. Good evening, and goodnight.

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