Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Update on the Buddha Tattoo Design in progress!

I love pictures of projects in the works! UPDATE FROM A PREVIOUS POST: Fresh from Boston, here is a tattoo design that I illustrated this month fresh in the skin. Excited to see the finished piece!
Josh's Tattoo design in progress. ©Forest Stearns

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Collaboration in Illustration. Mail Art Style.

Lowrider Sloth,My contribution to a previously painted panel. ©Forest Stearns
I received the piece below, in the mail the other day and this weekend I was able to add some signature style. It is always fun to add to the conversation of a piece, trying to push the composition and develop a focal point without killing the previous artists' intentions. I have never meet the 2 artists Sarah Hollaback and Elizabeth Amento that started this piece. It was exciting to open the over sized box and find such a colorful and energetic painting in the works!  It was a pleasure to ponder the possibilities of what to add.
This is the state of the painting when it arrived.
I went to work sketching ideas that were traveling in my brain. The composition looked like an explosion so I wanted to do a piece that would both calm the chaos and ground the focal point. Sloths on lowriders started arriving almost without invitation to the pages of my sketch book. The writing is an added pointless bonus.
Multiple layers and pages of practice in the book ©Forest Stearns

Taking bits from multiple sketches I started on the panel. 

From here I love to get to work with mid tone lay-in lines, then cutback with a value pattern of local hues. 

Mid tone lines and painted cut backs ©Forest Stearns

Then comes the black line work to develop the focal point. 

Choice of focal point and development of contrast. ©Forest Stearns
With that decided all I have to do is develop a light source and add some yummy core shadows
Juicy details and saturated core shadows. ©Forest Stearns
He turned out to be a happy little guy. I love the feeling of riding a lowrider bike and just cruising. The posture is always so stretched out and stylized that it is perfect for a sloth. 

I am excited to see who is next and what they have to add to the mix.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Drawing with the Ceramicist Joe Kowalczyk

Yesterday I was honored by the invitation to go and draw in the studio of Joe Kowalczyk We spent the afternoon painting and drawing a good 2 dozen pieces talking about inspirational methods and media and planning for an upcoming collaboration show. I was drawing with my Live Art tool set that consists of a powerful and straightforward arsenal of 1 inch markers and china crayons of Yellow, Red, Black, and White. Strapped with a pad of tan paper and my trusty pocket knife to cut out the sheets as soon as they were finished. A technique that I had founded the evening before drawing at a local drink and draw. We finished page killer after page killer, surgically removing them from the binding of the book and displaying them across the floor. A great session of dialog and practice!
9 paintings of characters  I rocked in my tan papered sketchbook.©Forest Stearns
Forest and Joe's character illustration line up©Forest Stearns

Forest rocking marker paintings on tan pages ©Forest Stearns

Upon first metting this artist I could see straight off that he was an interesting lad with interesting art, the walls of his gallery/work area were loaded with rich sculpted characters. He is wonderfully humble and full of smiles. We originally meet at Oakland's Art Murmur when my comrade Erin Wapple and I found his FM Gallery where he is Co-curator, co director, and technician for the space. We thanked him for the inspiration and talked about a collaboration of some sort. He puts in hours and does great sculpture. Here are some of his ceramic pieces.
© Joe Kowalczyk These are me works. Visit my website

© Joe Kowalczyk In the Mind and Through the Hand
© Joe Kowalczyk

© Joe Kowalczyk, "Collective Soul"
23in (width) x 33in (height) x 13in (depth)
ceramic and metal

© Joe Kowalczyk, "In the Mind and Through the Hand"
18in x 26in
ceramic and hung on the wall

© Joe Kowalczyk, "Beside the Mask I Make"
15in x 24in
ceramic, metal, and fiber hung on the wall

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Character illustration of Dr. Orange! A cute and professional avatar.

Dr Orange, character avatar for Torie Beedle @ ©Forest Stearns
Yesterday I did a fun citrus digital illustration to represent an interviewed Doctor on the website noeticmusings.  The Dr, wanted to to remain anonymous so I portrayed her as the embodiment of her favorite color with an analogous color scheme and supported by a chisel tip sharpie hand written script. Simple gradients and value changes make the  line drawing pop with visual Vitamin C!

Analogous color defined at: :

Analogous color scheme

Analogous colors are colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. Some examples are green, yellow green, and yellow or red, orange and yellow. Analogous color schemes are often found in nature and are pleasing to the eye. The combination of these colors give a bright and cheery effect in the area, and are able to accommodate many changing moods. When using the analogous color scheme, one should make sure there is one hue as the main color.

The interview is very interesting, give it a read:  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Making faces in art! It seems to be a theme in my work!

There is a thread of characters in my illustrations that are always popping up. I was taking photos of a collection of work and these close ups were very interesting to me.

Skull face character.©Forest Stearns
Organic Garlic Man©Forest Stearns
Organic Potato Eyes ©Forest Stearns
Organic Cauliflower Girl ©Forest Stearns
Smiling Bandit©Forest Stearns
Multi-eyed Wilde beast. ©Forest Stearns
Dead Face ©Forest Stearns
Mecha eyes ©Forest Stearns
Bird Hat Cute Eyes ©Forest Stearns
Happy Fangs ©Forest Stearns
Grimy Beard ©Forest Stearns
Unicorn Flat Head ©Forest Stearns
Organic Ginger Boy ©Forest Stearns
Zombie Masher ©Forest Stearns
Zombie Barista ©Forest Stearns
Arrow Eyes Ninja ©Forest Stearns
Green Vamp ©Forest Stearns

Monday, March 14, 2011

The process of Illustrating a young adult's adventure book.

©Forest Stearns
It is quite an endeavor illustrating a full book. Not only is it a big work load, but you have to make the pieces go together in a visual narrative and thematic imagery. I recently finished illustrating a book targeted at young adult's in the same vein as Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. This chapter book is call 'The Peril of Poacher Cove.' It is a series of books called 'The Brogan Adventures.'  The publisher wanted a sophisticated look much less animated then the Ozzie book I have illustrated for him. In grad school I learned steps to a successful execution of a large project like this. It takes time and lots of leg work but it is very fun to go out and get reference photos and be creative with the compositions.

The process is simple in theory, and takes a good deal of design work to actually pull off.
Brogan, page 10. ( Notice in the photo, that the guys are laughing. Always a comedian with villains these days) ©Forest Stearns

0) The contract to start the job and the partial payment upfront.  It is more than important to have a good contract outlining the steps and expectations of the publisher and the schedule of payment upfront. Getting a down payment upon sketches is a great idea as well, so you have cash to buy supplies and pay models. Hopefully the artist can produce a beautiful project, and hopefully the publisher will pay for the job in the end. I have been shafted by clients and a strong contract helps insure safety, but not always unfortunately.
©Forest Stearns

1) The story board based on the text. As the art director of this project I was able to choose the imagery to put in each drawing based upon the subject matter of each chapter. So in reading the manuscript, I took notes of the events that would visually tell an important event of the chapter.

©Forest Stearns
2) Shooting reference photos based on the story board sketches. Having a good set of drawings up front is great, but coming up with the picture perfect subject matter is another challenge. For this project I hired models that fit the characters in the writing. Two teenagers that are the protagonists. A set of guys that would be the fearless State Trooper, one of them is a retired cop so he was able to bring his gun collection to the outdoor photo shoot. Having real pictures of complex things such as firearms makes drawing them much more convincing the the viewer. Had to find the specific type of dog the matched the large white Alaskan Husky named Max. There is a set of bad guys that do some eagle poaching that I had to typecast for the part. And then of course there is the scenery and the props like boats and planes, not to mention making it really look like Alaska. I was as creative as possible taking my own reference but I did have to go to a stock image site and pick up photos of float planes and lake resorts.
©Forest Stearns

3) Getting the images into the paper. For the sake of speed and realism, I used a projector to get the image to the watercolor paper. Working from black and white images I had made of the photos, which often were cut and pasted together like Frankenstein, I transferred the images with their full value pattern to the paper.
©Forest Stearns

4) Actually painting the image in watercolor correctly.  Working from black and white made it theoretically easy to get the painting laid out in the correct values. I was able to plug in any hue and as long as the values were correct, it worked, and I could design the color scheme without being jaded by the reference photos. Awesome.
©Forest Stearns

5) Making sure they all work in series with enough variation. At this point in these pieces my main concern is creating a focal point that is centered on the place visually that represents the key point of the verbal story. Making the viewer look at what the author is writing about. Working from photos taken based on sketches is difficult when you want to add things later to the composition. Dealing with lighting is the most challenging. Stephen Player, was a great instructor of these techniques and I feel like I nailed it well.  My medium for these pieces was watercolor and colored pencil with acrylic when needed.
©Forest Stearns

6) Scanning and cleaning digitally. Making the piece look perfect. Maybe resizing something or popping the colors or values if needed.
©Forest Stearns

7) Presentation to the publisher and author. They really don't care how you got to this point but it is a must to present the client with a professional looking PDF or portfolio of the final work. Makes them feel good about paying you.

The following are examples of this process I have described.

Brogan, page 5, Boat wreck ©Forest Stearns
Brogan, page 20, Boys get awarded (notice that it is me at the podium!) ©Forest Stearns

Album Cover Illustration for Silas Dyken

SIZZLE P Album Cover ©Forest Stearns
This afternoon I finished an album cover for a Tuolumne County MC Silas Dyken, He goes by the name SIZZLE P.   This was an interesting challenge to completely color the piece digitally.  My goal in the piece was to create very saturated graff piece that stands as the foundation for the figures and a reaching tree. Elements of city in the background with an unnatural hue makes the scene surreal.  The tree is growing from a stack of speakers showing the power of nature growing on the metaphorical energy of music. The figures are engaging the viewer in a confident stance. They stand, glowing slightly, adding visual tension to the erupting canopy.
SIZZLE P Album Cover Composition Sketch ©Forest Stearns
My mother who is an artist in my hometown was out at the market and struck up a conversation with Silas randomly and it quickly turned to the topic of art. He took her card and was very impressed by the image. He told her that he needed some album art and she kindly pointed him in my direction knowing I love some Hip Hop and am versed in graffiti style work. I came up to Sonora not long after and meet Silas and we met over dinner. I had him answer a set of questions about his intention for the illustration and I went to work on a sketch for the composition based on his idea.
SIZZLE P Basic value study sketch. ©Forest Stearns
The next step was a value study. Mashed up some different drawings to make an interesting composition and plugged in the values to get your eye looking at the focal point.
SIZZLE P Basic color study sketch. ©Forest Stearns
It is fun to digitally stack color over a value sketch. Like the old masters of oil painting, if you have the values right, it only takes some glazing of the colors to make the piece perform. From here I added the value sketch information and the color information to develop the final piece at the top.  A fun piece in the end, I love this job!