art

Why Reference Images Make a Difference for Art

What is a reference image, you may ask? It is an image an artist uses to help him or her create something by making it similar, but not exact. For example, if you use a house photo as a reference image, you may draw some things the same, but maybe change the shape of a window, remove a decorative touch, or use a different color for the roof.

For me, when I want to draw a person whom I have a specific envision for, I refer to different pictures to create the subject. I may use one picture for the face shape, another for the eyes, nose, mouth, and so forth. And guess what? Referring to photos makes a big difference for the aesthetic of the drawing I make.

Below is a drawing I did of my book’s main character with hardly any reference material used.

I find this sketch to be very unattractive. Not because of the photo lighting quality or the pencil marks, but because the face doesn’t look appealing. Proportions are kind of off.

So, here is a revised sketch I did of this same character. That’s another tip: revise your drawings if you feel it’s necessary.

It’s a little better than the previous drawing. However, the eyes are too big, and when I tried to adjust them in Photoshop, it just made the girl uglier. And she’d supposed to be more beautiful to me.

So, here is the third revision for the image:

She is starting too look more attractive, but the forehead is a bit too big. Also, this looks like it was cut and pasted on a solid-colored background. Honestly, I think it appears amateurish.

Now onto the final and best portrayal of my protagonist.

This is where I got serious into using as much reference material as possible. Hardly any of the features drawn were from my imagination. Of course, I didn’t copy anyone or make the girl resemble any real person. But thanks to the different approach, this is the best drawing out of all four. It kind of reminds me of a “Charlie the Unicorn” style. You know—the YouTube series about a cranky unicorn who gets taunted by two hyper ones. All right, that may be beside the point.

Anyway, for those of you who draw, you may want to consider the advice of reference material and revising your drawings. Hope this helped.

art, cooking

It’s Fun to Draw Cakes

Although it’s unlikely typical for people to want to draw designs for their cakes, no matter the reasons, I enjoyed it in my youth and still do now.

As a creative and artistic person, I’ve constantly come up with various ideas and specific envisions for just about anything.  With cakes, I’ve drawn how I wanted them to look. Sometimes I’ve had my own drawings scanned onto them. During that time, I also discovered that copyrighted images could not be scanned onto cakes. So, I had to stick with my own ideas.

I would also illustrate a few different ideas of one cake. I did that for my sweet 16 cake, and used every possible point-of-view (except the bottom, obviously). The bakery used one of the designs and that pleased me.

Recent years, though, I’ve designed cake appearances for me to bake from scratch. One of my college friends is allergic to peanuts, and unfortunately, there aren’t many commercial options near me that are 100 percent safe for those with nut allergies. It sounds strange, especially since I live close to New York City. But even there, I had trouble finding a place I could trust to be fully nut-free. There are some, but they’re also dairy-free, gluten-free, and so on.

Even though I’ve been cooking since I was 12, some of the cake designs I’ve envisioned were a little too advanced for me, like the ones below.

The gradient technique is called an ombre. It looks beautiful, but I’m not sure if I know how to do it properly (in spite of researching it). And some of the flowers are probably best for elite and highly talented bakers. Here’s another cake image I drew that I felt was too hard to actually do in real life.

It most likely would be easier than the one with the ombre and detailed flowers. However, this would have involved a lot of work.

So, at times, less can be more with designing and decorating cakes, especially if it’s a casual party at your house with a group of friends. I learned that cake appearances can still look dazzling, even with few decorations. That is what I did for my 26th birthday November 2019.

Okay, maybe me looking away from the camera might be kind of distracting. But if you look carefully at the cake I’m cutting, you see only two colors, one type of decorative design, and the writing on a white chocolate bar in the center. That was good enough for me, especially with all the cooking and other preparations I had to do.

So, there you have it.

art

Drawing Proportions from Face to Face is Anything but a No-Brainer

Image from Pixabay

Pretty much all of us have drawn in our youth whether it was required in school or for pleasure. Regardless of that, only some of us have taken our artistic activities seriously and honed them to produce quality work.

This post will focus on the face and why it can be difficult to create with accurate proportions. And no, that doesn’t count the simple smiley faces or the stick-figure heads. Anyone could make those easily. This will be about drawing the face as best as possible.

One fact I learned when creating faces was that the eyes are separated by one imaginary eye shape. In other words, you could fit a third eye in between the two real ones.

The mouth is also difficult to line up where it belongs. Not only because people move their mouths and have different shapes of them, but also because getting them in the center is challenging. So, it’s a good idea to have lines to guide you when you draw.

But the biggest struggle with the face is probably the nose. You want it to look attractive and, at least, kind of realistic, depending on your artistic skills. But you also might not wish to make the human look like he or she is wearing a nose costume.

What I do for that is shade or draw one line that leads up from the nose toward the eye area. It all depends on your style or plan as well as your talent.

So, yeah, the face can be a bit of a challenge. However, it can also be fun. After all, many folks like creating different variations of different subjects.

Having reference material can also help. You use it as inspiration, but not copying (unless that’s your intention and only for personal use).

I hope this post helps.

art

Mini Art Show: Witch in Detention

How did I come up with this, you may ask? Well, it was inspired by one of my own novels, believe it or not. In one of them, my protagonist is cursed with uncontrollable magic powers and is constantly misunderstood by others. This, unfortunately, used to happen hundreds of years ago, as well. Those who were miscomprehended and accused of being witches were… removed from society. Actually, they were killed.

But I wrote a book that is set in 2010. While many things have changed in the past 9 years, the consequences my MC received for unintentionally doing wizardry would probably happen today. One of the punishments she gets is detention at school. Despite the seriousness of past witch hunts and even what my protagonist goes through, I turned this tragic idea into a comedic one.

So, as you can see, the witch looks pretty typical for a paranormal figure. You might think she looks more like a Halloween witch. That was deliberate. And no—she’s not the one from “The Wizard of Oz”, nor was that witch behind any inspiration for this piece. After all, don’t you notice the orange hair?

The cartoony look was not really done on purpose. Nor was the fact that I did it in Photoshop. However, I think a more realistic appearance wouldn’t have worked out as realism often doesn’t promote satire or humor.

The idea stood out to me for a while. It wasn’t until recently, though, that I decided to turn it into a visible image.

art

Using Humor in Art

Who doesn’t love to laugh? Certainly me. I’ve always loved humor and applying it in unusual places (as long as it’s appropriate). I even applied humor to a PowerPoint presentation I had to do in high school.

But I also enjoy making my artwork funny. Some of the pieces include a rooster riding a unicycle, a man playing an instrument with a lion in his boat, and a dingo eating a baby (which was not my original idea, but a tragedy turned into a comedy). You can find them on this blog through older posts. I’ve also done silly “Harry Potter” fan art when I was younger. I still have the drawings in my room. However, I won’t share them online. Not just for possible copyright reasons, but also because I don’t find them funny anymore. My family would consider them weird at the time. Now I agree with them.

While still on the fan art topic, I photo-shopped Rafiki holding up Kenny from “South Park” and made it my computer screensaver. Just like with the wacky “Harry Potter” drawings, I think it’s best not to post the laptop background. But a few people have admired it.

Comedy is often not easy to execute successfully. However, I’ve made people laugh with a video I animated about a snake swallowing an entire wedding cake, which you can find on YouTube if you search, “Sunayna Prasad here comes the snake”. I think I could make a great comedian, but I don’t think it’s worth it for me.

Nevertheless, I still enjoy cracking people up. Not only with my artwork, but many other ideas, as well.

art

Mini Art Show: Rooster on a Unicycle

What a better way to wake up every morning, right? A rooster riding a unicycle. It’s a twist on the cliché of a rooster cockadoodle doing on top of a barn as the sun rises.

Actually, it was inspired by my neighbor, who has a noisy rooster. I’ve always wondered if it was hungry, or just expressing itself. I used to have guinea pigs and they used to squeak when they were hungry.

Anyway, back to the image. I’ve always loved humor in pretty much anything positive, including art. I’ve done a collage of a man playing music with a lion in his boat and a dingo eating a baby (which actually happened, sadly, but was changed to a humorous saying). You can find them on another post.

So, as you can see, the rooster is in the countryside and there’s a barn in the background as well as hayfields. The rooster is probably bigger than real ones are.

Another thing about this piece is that I used Chartpak markers—something I haven’t used in years. I forgot how much they bleed and how strong they are. In fact, when I used them in college, everyone and I were instructed to color on the back for our drawings.

After I colored in the pencil outlines, I traced over color edges with a pen. That’s actually a common practice for artists.

There you have it.

art

Mini Art Show: Cupcake Tower

Who has seen a cupcake tower before? I have, but only in pictures. Cupcake towers have become very popular over the years, especially at weddings.

But how many can fit on the stand all together? That’s tough when you never had one you could easily handle. Looking at pictures can only provide you so much. You can count the cupcakes you can see in the image and estimate how many are not shown. However, that’s still difficult.

It’s also hard to find exact measurements and the accurate number of cupcakes needed per base on the stand. Luckily, I found one.

Why did I do this, you may ask? Because I wanted to challenge my illustration skills. No, I am not planning a party. This was just for fun.

Enough about the stand—onto the cupcakes. I gave the cupcakes different flavors: vanilla, chocolate, red velvet, carrot, and strawberry. The frostings are vanilla, pink vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and cream cheese. I actually made myself a cupcake library for me to copy and paste. That way, I can save time and keep the cupcakes more accurate and even.

I dragged a high number all together. I don’t recall the exact count. But who cares? Like I said before, it’s only for pleasure.

art

Simple Shapes vs. Outlining Drawings

Who has drawn before? Pretty much all of us. We learned it in school. However, only a section of us have developed a passion or talent for them.

Most of us were probably taught to outline our drawings first as children. And that is fine. But if you go into illustration or animation, you’ll have to learn about drawing using simple shape blocks. Why? Well, consistency. The smallest can be greatly noticed by the general public.

While I still outline some drawings, when I want to be serious, I now use simple shapes. The image below shows a drawing I did using simple shapes.

It wasn’t meant to be finished as it was used as a reference template for someone I’ve worked with. Yet, you can see the simple shapes as building blocks for each character or element.

There are times where it’s acceptable to outline or be very simplistic. Like in math, you may have been asked to draw out problems but not use details. The focus was the problem and not the art. But I’m no math expert.

Anyway, if you’re in a hurry, by all means outline everything first, like you were probably taught as a kid. But if you’re a serious artist who wants to hone your illustration or drawing skills, then simple shapes are a must. I was taught this in college.

I don’t have a picture that I clearly outlined. Well, I’ve practiced using other drawings. But I threw them all away due to space issues in my room. Also, they weren’t my ideas.

Yet, I can tell you the technique. I would select a semi-realistic image and decide on the person’s age range and gender. The choices for age range were baby/small child, older child, teen/young adult, middle aged adult, or senior. I would use an image from the face to chest instead of the whole figure. I would tell myself to observe the outlines but not to trace. Pretty much no image came out exact. However, most did turn out similar. And I accepted that.

I would practice at least a couple times a day. Then I would move to the next level of making them look like cartoons of themselves. That was very, very difficult.

Why semi-realistic, you may ask? One, it’s the style I’m most attracted to. Two, it’s neither too realistic or too cartoony. Many people prefer cartoonish style over realistic. But I feel cartoonish is a little too easy for me.

I would like to return to that soon. You could try these techniques too. Good luck.

art

Drawing by Hand and Coloring in Photoshop

Who’s done this before? Raise your hand. Ha ha, just playing with you. But believe it or not, it can be fun. I’ve done it so many times.

I do have a graphic tablet that I can draw on. Although I’ve gotten better control at it, I still draw better with pencil and paper—the old-fashioned way.

However, when it comes to coloring, digitally is more fun. Think about it. You’ve got unlimited colors, digital tools, and best of all, no mess to clean up. It’s all on your computer or tablet (like an iPad).

Below is an example of an illustration I did where I drew by hand and colored digitally.

Can you see the pencil lines? I don’t know about you, but I can. They look kind of rough. There are a few digitally-drawn lines as you can see on the sidewalk, street, and even the bricks. And the colors are obviously digital.

Here is another image drawn traditionally and painted digitally.

Although this might not look nearly as exciting as the one with the teenage boy above, the pencil lines are more obvious. The colors were originally done with chartpak markers, which leave extreme marks. Some hues were re-painted in Photoshop.

While these were fist done with pencil outlines, sometimes I trace the pen over the pencil and erase the pencil marks, like in this image below.

Chairs

Those lines look crisp and clear, not to mention much smoother. That is because they were done with high-quality pens. And, of course, the colors are digital.

Yes, Photoshop and any other Adobe program is costly. But if you have it or want it, once you get good at it, coloring your hand-drawn images is super fun.

art

How to Use Reference Images for Illustration

An example of an illustration I did using reference material

What is a reference image, you may ask? A reference image is a picture you use to inspire your drawing or illustration. You do NOT copy it exactly, unless, of course, it’s for personal use only. However, if you’re going to upload it online or make money off of it, then at least some aspects have to be changed.

For example, you draw a portrait of a person. You use a photo to guide you. But to make it your own and not be considered plagiarized, you should change, say the eye color, remove a piece of jewelry, etc.

Another trick I’ve come up with on my own is mixing and matching facial features to create illustrations of people. I would use different images from various sources, like Google or my school yearbooks. I would draw one person’s set of eyes, another’s nose, another’s smile, and so forth, on one character. As long as it doesn’t look obvious and you change some details, you’re fine.

Reference images are also useful for body positions, scenery, backgrounds, and more. In fact, if you go into illustration or animation, then reference images are musts. You need to make the art appear credible. Drawing just from your imagination will cause more people to consider you illegitimate.

Of course, no artist is perfect. In fact, many cartoons have inconsistencies with their art. For example, a character’s eye color may change. Or a tree may disappear. This is easily noticed by audiences.

So there you have it. Now have fun illustrating using reference images.