In the comments section of Friday’s post (and probably inspired by my amazing Technicolor Rainbow Donkey), Alice inquired about how I created the artwork that appears on this blog. It’s a question many people have asked, because so few have been lucky enough to see me at my “craft” in person. To sum it up in a nutshell, I use nothing more advanced than the standard MS Paint program that comes with Windows (the older version, not that new shit that gets packaged with Windows 8), and a two year old version of Photoshop, which I only break out for advanced effects (like pretty much everything in the Rainbow Donkey test pattern picture).
And I use the mouse to draw with. Not a stylus, nor a graphics pad, nor anything advanced or seemingly intuitive to create freeform designs with. The same mouse you use to move the cursor across the screen and click on my blog in your bookmarks to get your daily dose of sciurine insanity….
A while back, my cat Ody gave my readers a behind the scenes look at how I create my comic strips. That process is quite different from how I make the other colorful creations you’re used to seeing on my blog, so I decided to give a little demonstration for you this morning by drawing up a simple little 200X200 pixel image (like most of the artwork I sprinkle throughout these posts) that had I not taken the time to document my work would’ve taken me maybe 10 minutes to spit out. Here’s the drawing in all of its glory:
So how did this masterpiece of bad icebox art come about? Well, first I open up the program every single piece of art I’ve ever drawn begins its life in… MS Paint. I shrink the canvas size to 200X200, and we’re ready to start!
Now, attempting to draw in that tiny box is next to impossible. So I use the Zoom tool (the magnifying glass) to enlarge the canvas so that I can have the fine control needed to create my intricate characters. I started with ES first, and I always start out a sketch of a character by outline of the legs and torso….
These small images (which I have mastered having drawn so many avatars for my message board) require the single pixel brush to allow for detail.
Next I add the feet and head. When doing either of these on a character, I max the zoom so that it’s even closer than what I’m showing here, otherwise it’s going to look sloppily drawn.
Now we add the eyes, nose, and mouth, as well as the white sections around ES’s mouth and on his belly. Notice I have also erased the lines from the original sketch that passed through the arms and ears. This is easily done by simply brushing over those sections with the background color, which is white.
Next comes the tail, which I always try to work away from any other characters who many be in the picture… and finally, the finishing touches on the face. A single white pixel in each eye (These are a crucial aspect to show exactly where the character is looking), as well as a small gleam on the nose.
Now that ES is completely sketched out, it’s time to work on the outline for MBRS…
One thing to take note of is that, without her identifying features, MBRS’s basic designs looks almost identical to ES’s…. and in fact, I use pretty much the same basic design for almost all of my characters. Imagine my characters like Angel and even non-squirrel characters like Hooly and Erin in the state of creation MBRS is in the picture above, and they would all look very alike. One of my favorite tricks I like to show off to those who do get to watch me at work is first drawing ES, then turning him into MBRS, then turning her into Angel. It’s amazing how three completely different personalities can come out of the same design.
Now it’s time to add MBRS’s hair. It’s not the easiest process in the world, but I’ve drawn my female characters more than enough to have the art of adding hair to my basic design down to a science. Here it is in the first step…
The hair flowing down MBRS’s back isn’t the trick, it’s the hair around her face and ears. To simplify this effect, I draw two curves about 1/3 of the way up each ear, and connect the hair over the eyes to the cheek fur… including adding any danging hair down the side of the face that is facing the viewer. A little dab of white to erase the intruding under-outline, and voila!
You can also see I added the hair coming off the shoulders here… another trademark of mine. Now I add the tail, as well as MBRS’s identifying marks… the jagged lines just above the wrists and elbows showing where there’s a change in the color of fur (this is universal for all of my characters save ES himself), and lastly her cute little heart “tattoo” on her left hip.
Now that the outlines are complete, it’s time to color the squirrels! After all, a black and white squirrel is extremely boring and unacceptable at The Nest. ES is up first, and the easiest to do since he consists of only two colors…. light gray and dark gray, both of which are default colors on Paint. I use the Fill tool for the coloring process, which completely colors in whatever section I click in.
Now for MBRS. For this demonstration, I’ll start off with the two colors on her palette that are also default colors for Paint… the red of her hair and heart, and the green of her eyes. On this one, I noted one of the things you have to watch for when using the Fill tool. If a small section gets isolated from the main part you are coloring, you have to click it separately to get it to color. Most drawings will have a number of tiny one pixel “islands” that will frustrate me while coloring, and that I’ll often miss seeing.
MBRS’s fur colors are not default colors of Paint, so I have to go to the Colors tab to create a custom color. This can be done by clicking on a spot in the spectrum and then adjusting the intensity of the color up or down on the slide. Since my main characters’ colors are already established, I can simply input the Hue, Saturation, and Luminosity values I’ve recorded for them to quickly get my color. I’ve colored MBRS so many times in the past 4 years, that I have her settings memorized by heart… and there you see the ones for her main fur above. Do not let this intelligence get into the wrong hands!!!
And now, MBRS is completely colored and ready for a few finishing touches. Unlike with ES and his simple black eye coloring, it makes sense to add the pupil on a colored eye after that color has already been applied. Similarly, it makes more sense to add the interior lines to MBRS’s hair after it has already been colored… or else it might play havoc with the fill tool.
Looking good, squirrels! Now to add a simple colored background with the Fill tool, and we have a finished piece of art that took no time at all to create!
Well, there you have it! Now you too can create your own cute little squirrel characters! I hope to have a future installment where I show off how I create my more dazzling images with the help of Photoshop… but until then, happy drawing!