Inspiration to Illustration: Creating Personal and Iconic Artwork | Eric Friedensohn | Skillshare

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Inspiration to Illustration: Creating Personal and Iconic Artwork

teacher avatar Eric Friedensohn, @efdot - Muralist / Designer in Brooklyn

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Tools & Supplies


    • 3.

      Finding Inspiration


    • 4.

      Warm-up Exercise: Word Association


    • 5.

      Warm-up Exercise: Doodling Shapes


    • 6.

      Warm-up Exercise: Viewfinder


    • 7.

      Sketching & Brainstorming Concepts


    • 8.

      Refining Your Artwork


    • 9.

      Adding Lettering


    • 10.

      Developing Your Style


    • 11.



    • 12.

      Bonus: Tools & Supplies Pt. 2


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About This Class

Get outside. Follow your inspiration. Create a minimalist illustration that is authentically yours.

In today’s increasingly digital world of illustration, it is crucial to develop off-the-screen habits to develop truly personal, meaningful work. Join street illustrator and muralist Eric Friedensohn (@Efdot) for an immersive class that takes us out into our environment to spark visual creativity.

Participants will learn how to find inspiration in everyday life and turn it into a unique art piece that tells a story, using only the bare essentials: pencils, pens and a sketchbook. 

In this class, we will:

  • Explore the "open" creative mode - letting our creative flow with a series of pencil-to-paper warm-up exercises
  • Overcome perfectionism - drawing with speed over quality first 
  • Practice the art of subtraction -  creating a simplified image that lets the viewer fill in the gaps
  • Refine our ideas - narrowing down our sketches into a refined final composition in Adobe Fresco
  • Add in lettering - exploring different lettering approaches to strengthen the story in our illustrations
  • Develop our unique style - tapping into our own stories and inspirations to hone in a unique visual identify for our illustrations

This class is for beginner to intermediate artists and graphic designers looking to elevate their drawing skills and get back to basics.

Meet your teacher:

“Eric Friedensohn, better known as “Efdot,” specializes in handmade, site-specific murals. He champions an abstract-meets-figurative style for his vivid and whimsical compositions. His practice is strongly informed by the art & architecture he encountered while living and traveling in Latin America in 2017-2018. Most notably, his “Blob” character is the ubiquitous star of his pieces, portraying a curled-up subject that evokes the smooth linework and forms found in Latin American indigenous traditions.” – Hypebeast

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Eric Friedensohn

@efdot - Muralist / Designer in Brooklyn


Hey, I'm Eric!

I create abstact-meets-figurative illustrations and paint murals.

Follow me on instagram  @efdot

 & get more resources and tips on my email newsletter.



I just launched my first Skillshare class! It's called:

Inspiration to Illustration: Creating Personal and Iconic Artwork

Check out the trailer and see you in the class!

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1. Introduction: Hey, I'm Eric, aka F dot, I'm a muralists, illustrator, graphic designer, based here in Brooklyn, New York. Today, I'm going to be teaching you how to get inspiration from your environment and turn it into a unique and minimal illustrations. A lot at the beginning of this class is going to be exercises in getting out of your own head because a lot of artists, they get stuck in this perfectionist mode where they don't actually ever put pen to paper because they just need it to be perfect. So this first few warm up exercises that we're going to do in the next lesson, I'm really excited because I'm actually going to teach you how I just loosen up and put marks on paper before we're making anything productive, just get into the process. I'm so excited to teach this class because I believe that everybody, you, your friend, your mom has great ideas, and I think that all they need to do is just tweak your process a little bit, and tweak the way they think about it and really be able to get those onto the page without overthinking it. This is going to be a little bit of a different Skillshare class, we're actually going to be going out and trying to find inspiration in ordinary places that maybe you go to every day, but you haven't actually sat down and taken time to draw there. Getting off the computer and drawing in real life is something I'm really passionate about and always been a part of my process. I really want to share that with you because you're probably stuck on the computer like me, you're watching this video. I'm really excited to take you on this journey with me, so let's roll. 2. Tools & Supplies: Today we're going to be making minimal, black and white illustration. The tools we're going to be using today in this class are really simple. It's just a pencil, a sketchbook, and a paint marker. The reason I chose these tools is because there's not really too many frills. We're not going to be using color, we're not going to be adding that much texture. It's really just going to be about positive and negative space. Because you can really do a lot with just those simple tools. So the next step is we're going to head outside and we're going to create something. So let's just bring the essentials with us, let's grab our sketchbook, let's bring my little travel to go kit. Let's go make some work. 3. Finding Inspiration: We just got here, at blue Park in East Williamsburg. This is the skate park right around the corner from my place. And we're just going to be here. And get some inspiration for our project, going to be sketching some ideas, doing some warm up exercises, and maybe a little bit skateboarding. So this park is actually a schoolyard. And right back here we have Middle School, and people just started kind of building ramps here, DIY style and usually they'll get kicked out or removed from the park. But, this park for some reason has stood the test of time. It's one of my favorite places to skate. So when you're thinking about where you want to go to find your inspiration, you might actually find that the most inspiring places are the places you already gone to every day. And you're just not looking hard enough, because inspiration is everywhere. You just have to notice it and you have to be looking out for it. Alright, so let's go on into the park. Let's see it here and start to look for some inspiration for our project. One of my favorite obstacles in this park is this circular manny pad right here. It's just different. You don't normally see this in a skate park. And while I'm here standing right in the way, everybody, I'm just going to tell you about why I like it. It's a bit of a love hate relationship with this one because I've tried a lot of tricks on this thing and it's just really, really hard. I'm always trying to like skate around it. It's an interesting kind of shape and it might actually be helpful for the illustration. The specific things I like about this object is the form of it. The circular shape might work really well. And the compositions, as it says, symmetrical. And I actually like the mass of it too. It's like very chunky and thick and it evokes a lot of emotion when I see it might seem really regular, but this is my favorite obstacle here. I think it can be really good inspiration for the project. So for you as a student, when you're going out looking for inspiration, you might want to start by just looking at things that are part of your everyday routine. Things that you might have overlooked that have a certain specialness about them that maybe didn't notice until today when you're doing this project. The next place that caught my eye for inspiration was this red brick building back here in the corner. So let's go check that out. So when I'm looking around these spaces, I'm always looking for interesting shapes, interesting geometry. And this water fountain really stood out to me. It's a really old school shape, something you don't normally see in parks anymore. I really like that curve that's on the bottom of the water fountain. I might try incorporating that into my illustration later. Alright, so the other thing that stood out to me in this skate park was this big red building. I don't know what's inside of it. But it's funny how it keeps getting repainted over and over. Like last week it was black now it's red. And so you can even bring that whole scene into your sketch book and not just focus on one floating object. I definitely think some of my most interesting insights and compositions and illustrations come from just watching people and not necessarily drawing people, but the little idiosyncrasies between how people interact and like our modern culture are really inspiring to me. So maybe just looking around where you are and focusing on what are people like in your city, in your town. And how can you incorporate yourself into the community and take something away that you can bring into your art. So I'm just going to skate around a little bit and talk to some people who try to make some friends maybe, and maybe play a game, escape 1,2,3 sheep. [inaudible] feeling pretty static. I'm a little bit sweaty. I'm out of breath too. It's time to sit down take a little est and get started with some sketchbook process. 4. Warm-up Exercise: Word Association: The goal for any project in the beginning is to get into this open mode where your ideas are just coming and you're not judging them too much, you're letting them flow, getting some things on paper. So that way later when you get into more of a closed mindset, and you can hone in on what is the goal of this illustration, what is it trying to communicate? You can use those two modes, back and forth, getting ideas and then refining them and honing in. The comedian actor John Chris has this great philosophy about the open and closed modes. Here's a direct quote, "We all operate in two contrasting modes, which might be called opened and closed. The open mode is more relaxed, more receptive, more exploratory, more democratic, playful, and more humorous. The closed mode is tighter, more rigid, hierarchical, more tunnel-visioned and most people unfortunately spend most of their time in the closed mode. Not that the closed mode can't be helpful." When you're really focusing on a task it's helpful to have that mindset. You get the gist, how there's these two contrasting modes and in the beginning of every project, it's super helpful to get really open-minded and just let your ideas flow onto the paper. Don't judge them too quickly. Have fun. Be your funky self. Just don't worry so much about getting something done and just really relax into that flow. So let's get started with a few exercises that will help you get into the open mode. If you've never done anything like this before, hopefully one of these will resonate with you and you'll be able to use that to get started with your project. It looks like a recess is starting. It looks like there's going to be a lot of energy, a lot of kids out here playing around. It's going to be a good opportunity to get started with some of these warm-up exercises so let's get into the first one with the word association lists. All right. We're just going to dive in and get started with some word association lists. Get our ideas flowing for this illustration. These are just to get your brain going. Start thinking of some mental images to conceptualize your illustration. So since I'm here at the skate park, I'm going to just write some words about skateboarding, whatever comes to my mind first. It doesn't all have to be nouns it can be verbs, adjectives, really whatever images come to your head, whatever you think about, maybe one of your hobbies. For me, skateboarding is really fun and free. There's no rhyme or reason to this you can really make your words as big or as small, you can fill up the whole page, make it look more of a mind map if that works for you, or it could just be a straight-up list. If you get stuck and you can't think of any more words, that's totally fine, you can draw pictures instead, there's no, there's no reason you need to do this to fill an entire page. For me I like to get at least maybe 20 words on a page before I move on to drawing images but if you run out, that's totally fine you can always come back to it later. It takes a little bit of practice to get into the mode of letting your brain wander and actually putting your ideas onto the paper if you're not used to it. But once you see everything, it's just like getting all of it out of your head and then you can start to think of images that go along with these words. I have the word, rolling, here so you can also just do the opposite of the word, like stop, powe. And you can even start listing the really specific things that no one even knows about this culture like power slides: one of the moves, or actually writing-, maybe even making up your own words. Why not? You might find that while you're sketching some idea might hit you and say, "Oh, that's the idea for the illustration right there." I would say just roll with it. If you have a gut instinct of something that feels natural, it might take a little more work to find something more unique because in the beginning you're going to come up with these more generic ideas is just the way our brain works to get the boring stuff out first. But for me I feel like this idea of skate and create has some legs to it. So I'm going make another word association list using, worth about creating. I like words that rhyme so sometimes I'll just go down a rabbit hole of flow, go, no, show, grow. Grow has some nice imagery to it, right? Remember, don't judge your ideas too much. I just came up with some words that really don't belong on this list at first glance, but you might find a really cool idea there, so don't judge it too fast. This is just really to get started and get your brain going just to put something on the page because it can be intimidating. If you don't have a full page like this, that's totally fine. Definitely recommend doing at least 20 words. Whatever you can get off the top of your head or from the environment around you. 5. Warm-up Exercise: Doodling Shapes: Now let's move into the next stage, getting warmed up with some drawing exercises. This is another open exercise that will help you move from getting an initial idea to actually having some concepts for your illustration. Right now I'm just drawing some geometric shapes that maybe makes sense to you, maybe don't make sense. I'm just kind of letting my brain fill the space with whatever comes to mind. For some reason I like triangles today. That's cool. I didn't know I used to draw like this but more recently I feel like it's just been really helpful not to treat my sketchbooks so precious. It's just for getting your ideas out on paper. Some directionality here with some arrows that ties into the list. As you start to get comfortable drawing, you can start to go back to the list and pull some of those words and actually start to draw abstract representations of them or more literal versions of them. If I slip back to the lists, I think there's something funny about the nose and the tail of a skateboard, because you have the skateboard and you have the nose. Then you also have this nose, maybe this little tail. If you're referring back to your list and starting to draw some of those words, it's helpful to just let your brain go where it wants to go. If you want to draw ten different types of skateboards, draw ten different types of skateboards. If you want to make one drawing for each thing on your list, go for that. There's really no rhyme or reason here. It's just letting yourself go. Having the list handy and flipping back is really helpful for me. Sometimes I'll do two or three full spreads of sketches like this, just to get started. After that, I can go back and start putting them together. But right now it's not about creating a final concept, it's really just about turning those words into images so that you can combine them later. Now I'm starting to look around me a little bit and notice things in the environment that I can translate visually. We're in a school yard right now. I'm just drawing the fence. I'm using ink here because I don't want to be too precious about this. I don't want to actually go back and erase at this point. But that's not the point. I can always trace over this later and make some more refined sketches on top of this. A lot of times when I'm feeling stuck on a project and I'm just hesitating, I'm procrastinating, I don't want to dive in, I go right back to these exercises because in doing these, there's no wrong way to do it. You're just moving the pen. You're just getting some words on the page in list form and getting started by emptying your brain. 6. Warm-up Exercise: Viewfinder: All right, we have done our first two warm-up exercises and if those weren't working for you, if you weren't able to just really let loose and get into the process, here's a third technique that I like to use, and it's called the viewfinder technique. It's really simple. You just take this piece of cardboard, piece of paper, whatever you have, cut a hole in, it can be a rectangle, a square, circle, I like this format, is around 4 by 5. I'm just going to start to hold it up to different parts of my environment. We've got the energy back out here, I'm going to try to find some inspiration in my surroundings. What this viewfinder really allows me to do is to isolate parts of the scene and find interesting compositions. You can hold it far away from you, you can hold it close to you, whatever you're feeling. It helps me sometimes to close one of my eyes because the viewfinder is really close to my face and looks like I'm seeing double right now. If I like this scene because you've got people coming in and out, you have some foreground motion, you've got some background, but what I really like about this is that water fountain that super old-school curvy, water fountain, it almost looks like a skate ramp, doesn't it? Upside down, quarter pipe. You can see that there's a building in the back, it gives a little bit of context. I'm not sure if I'll use that in my drawing, but I just really like this composition. And it just allows you to kind of blur out the rest of the scene and focus in on one thing that you want to draw or maybe just an interesting interaction like the shadows that something's casting. Now I'm just going to go ahead and draw a couple of these scenes that I really liked from using this viewfinder. I'm just going to start by getting a frame. So that's the exact same proportions of what I saw. This tool has many purposes, many uses. Let's try to block out the main shapes first and get all the geometric shapes that I saw. Because geometric shapes are super easy to draw. You don't have to worry about drawing anything perfectly to logistically get a loose idea of what we were seeing back there. Whatever your composition looks like. It's trying to get your basic shapes in there. Again, just not getting too precious here about making anything look real or perfect. Just to get a loose composition on paper. I'm starting to draw some things in perspective here and the perspective isn't right, that's totally okay as well. Perspective is not really my strong suit anyway, and I don't really, I just lead into that and I let the wonky shapes be wonky. Maybe a few of his friends back here. I got this composition mapped out. I'm really liking some of the geometric shapes here from the ramps and the obstacles, maybe I'll use some of those going forward into here and just focus on the shapes, not so much on the people. As I'm drawing this next composition with the water fountain. I'm making things purposefully asymmetrical. Symmetry is a really nice shortcut, but I find that a lot of the interesting things happen when you start to work asymmetrically and have one object be way bigger than the one next to it. Blow things out of proportion to have a skateboard and the front like this wasn't actually in the scene. But now I'm adding something in that breaks up the composition and creates some foreground and background. The viewfinder is a great way to isolate specific things around you, but don't be afraid to also bring in some ideas from your word association lists or from your Doodle and mix them into the scene and try to create something that's a combination. I like all the brick patterns on that building as well. Look for interesting things around you that just feel unique to the place that you're in. We're Brooklyn right now there's lot of brick buildings around, so I'm going to make the brick pattern pretty prominent in this sketch. You can also start to play with light and shadow. Bring some things forwards, bringing some things back in space. We just finished up these two composition sketches. Feel like there's a lot to play with here. We're starting to flex a different muscle and start to put some of these shapes and objects in a context, in an environment. So now we're playing with foreground and background, with perspective a little bit. And there's a lot of good stuff we can work with here. The next exercise is going to be about actually conceptualizing your illustration. So remember the goal for these exercises is just getting open, and hopefully one of these exercises resonated with you. If there was one of them that you really enjoyed, just keep going, keep working on that, keep filling out more pages with that. You don't have to do all three of these. It's just whichever one works for you. 7. Sketching & Brainstorming Concepts : All right, so we've gotten warmed up, we got some inspiration, we got the juices flowing, let's get started on sketching and concepting some ideas for our illustration. Different from the last lesson, the goal for this exercise, is actually to take a few things from your sketches and put them together into an illustration that feels unique and clever and something like you haven't seen before. Because a lot of these doodles, although they're helpful to get started, this is not a finished illustration that feels unique enough to actually make a project out of, in my opinion. So we're going to take a few of these things and start to create some interesting connections, because that's what creativity is all about. All right, so to move into these concepts and sketches, I'm thinking I'm actually going to bring out my other sketchbook, so I can keep this one open and handy. I don't have to keep flipping back and forth, this is totally not necessary if you only have one sketchbook with you its still works just to have everything up and ready to go. So I can even trace If I want, I'm going to first take the things from my warm-up exercises that really stood out to me, as something that maybe we could bring into these concepts. I really like the quarter pipe shapes and how it looked like the water fountain, these are just notes for me to remember which ideas I want to explore. Now this tail, then going back to the lists, there were just a few words that jumped out to me. Ball, rolling and then free, since this is supposed to be about skateboarding, my concept, I'm really just going to write down skate so I remember to draw some skateboards. Because if it were just had the ball rolling, I'd be totally losing my concept. Skate and create, right so I have my toolbox here, my tools from the warm up exercises. Now I'm just going to spend about 15 minutes to explore how can combine some of these to create some interesting connections. You might actually surprise yourself here, where you come up with an idea you didn't expect, or something that you didn't even have, in your warm up exercises comes to mind and then that's your idea right there. Just let your mind run free, stay in that open mode here, don't judge it too hard. We are starting to think more about what the finished product is going to be, so if you're feeling something just go for it, lean into it, don't feel like you have to do 20 different options here. You can really spend a little more time exploring one concept if that feels right. All right, so we just finished up sketching some concepts for the illustration, just in like a loose thumbnail form. I'm just going back here and trying to notice which ones feel the most unique, and which ones that we can take forward into the final illustration. I really like this loop concept where the skateboard turns into the pencil, I haven't seen that combination before. I also like this more circular composition, where there's not too much happening or too much to understand, it just seems like a really simple concept and that could be really fun to refine that one. I'm going to go ahead and roll with these two, what I'm going to do is now that I've selected these, I'm going to start on a brand new piece paper. I'm just going to redraw them in a little bit of a tighter style using pencil first. You can really take your time with this step, because this is going to be your final illustration. This is what we're going to move eventually into the refinement stage. I want to make sure that all the proportions are right, that it feels really getting to be the complete illustration. You can do this with tracing paper if you want or you can just start on a blank sheet of paper. I don't have any tracing paper with me today, so I'm just going to keep it open here on the right in my smaller sketchbook, and use my larger to redraw it at a much larger size, probably about three times the size of my thumbnail sketch. I'm just going to start really lightly with pencil, doing basic geometric shapes, to get the perspective that I want in the skateboard. I want it like going back off into the distance a little bit it's the way I'm seeing into my head at least. I'm intentionally sketching really light here because I'm probably going to end up erasing most of these lines anyway. It just allows me to keep moving and not be so tight. You can see I'm transitioning from that open into the close, making more little micro decisions that make it from a rough idea into more of a polished illustration. I'm deciding whether the skateboard is going to come in front of the pencil, or if I want the pencil to come in front. I like that the pencil is hiding behind and so it's something that you see last. This is a little trick that I learned from another class on illustration by Christoph Niemann. It's where your eye automatically reads from left to right. Well, at least in Western countries, we read from left to right. The punchline of the joke, if you're illustration is supposed to be funny and clever, the punchline should typically be on the right side of the page, because your eye will move that way naturally. That's just a little thing you can work into your illustration if you want to have a little surprise or a punchline, it's always better to have it on the right or at the bottom of your illustration. I actually treat this stage almost like sculpture, because I have a form and I can push and pull on any of the sides to make it bigger or smaller. That's why the sketchy lines are so great, because I can just go in and start sculpting it with the eraser, removing whichever lines I don't like and keeping the ones that I do like. All right, so now I'm going over with more weight, and I'm just outlining ideally with one continuous line where I want the edges of the illustration to be. Think of it like an outline in a cartoon. Great, so we move from my rough thumbnail sketch to a larger sketch with the concept starting to come across and it feels like it really is starting to feel finished. I'm not going to do too much more work on this one. I want to have one more option so that I'm not putting all my eggs in that one basket. I'm going to go ahead and draw this circular composition. Little trick for drawing circles in your sketchbook, is you want to try to first make a square, you can use this dark grade if you have something like that or graph paper. Then just find the center of those four edges, and then you can just start to bring it in one quarter at a time. Of course, drawing on your computer or on an iPad would give you a perfect circle, but this is just an easy way to do it in your sketchbook and get a nice circle. As I'm drawing this circle, I'm realizing that drawing on my iPad or drawing on the computer would have made everything way easier and more perfect. But in my opinion, getting my ideas out on paper usually tends to work better, because the computer is a tool for perfection. When you're coming up with these ideas in that open mode, I don't want to be focused on perfection. I want to be focused on just the concept, really the style and the perfectness of the shapes are not that important to me, that's why I love to work on paper. For these figures that I'm drawing, this is my signature character, my blob guy that I draw, if you have a different way of drawing people, if you want to put people into your drawing, feel free to explore different ways to draw figures. This is just my default, so I'm using it for this project purposes. This isn't a figure drawing class and take a different skill share class for that, but hopefully you'll find your own way through this sketch exercises. With this concept I'm doing the same thing, I'm just treating it like more of a loose, lightly drawn sketch first and then I'm using the eraser to really sculpt those lines, and find the curves, and refine it down a little bit. It's okay to re-draw that's what's great about pencils you can test things out, erase and re-draw it or maybe there was one detail that you liked, but you need to do the outline better, make things come forward and backward by erasing. We have two really good options here, I could just continue working analogue and refining these illustrations until they're finished. But I think for the purposes of this class, I want to move onto my iPad, we're going to go back inside and refine these illustrations digitally. 8. Refining Your Artwork: All right, we're back in the studio. We got our sketch book here where we were working on our illustration. Then we had the iPad Pro, where we're going to be refining it in Adobe Fresco. The first step, once you are ready to start refining your illustration digitally is to get a nice photo of your sketch. I just use the iPad like a camera and I'm going to go ahead and photograph both sketches in the same shot. Makes sure that it's oriented correctly. And try to get a nice overhead shot. You can use the top and bottom lines of the sketch book to make sure that it's straight. Once you have your sketch, go ahead and open up Adobe Fresco. New document. I like to use a comedian resolution size 3600 pixels. Then we'll go ahead and find our photo of our sketch. So we're going to turn the opacity down on this picture layer. So that way it's almost like we're overlaying a sheet of tracing paper on top. I like to keep it usually between 20 and 40 percent, so I can still see it, but it's not too distracting. Then I'm going to make a new layer on top. Now with Adobe Fresco, it's Adobe's new drawing app you can draw in both raster and vector. So depending on what you're going for, I like to work in raster because there's more options for the brushes. You can get more texture and it's a little bit closer to the real analog field that I like. We'll look at the brushes here. These are called pixel brushes, which means it's raster. You won't be able to infinitely scale it like you would with a vector artwork. But there's a lot of really nice options that come with the program. I like the dry media ones, the basic ones, and the comics. I already put them in my favorite folder right here. I'm going to start with the hand pastel brush and you can see how that looks. Nice and chunky, almost like a stick of charcoal. If you end up making a line in Fresco that you don't like, you can just double tap with two fingers and it goes right away. If you ended up doing that by accident, you can just tap with three fingers and bring it right back. this brush is pretty large right now. I want to retrace this with a pretty thin line. So I'm going to bring it down to 20 pixels. Sometimes I end up retracing the same artwork a few times to get the right line weight that I want just like with the paint markers that I've shown you before, and that's totally cool. You can work in layers and you can decide later which details you want to include and which ones you want to leave out. Just by using different layers and turning them on and off using this little eye icon right here. So I'm just going to go in and start tracing over this illustration. I really like how you're able to zoom in and get really nice and close on the details whenever you want and then be able to zoom out and look at the final piece. You can't really do that so easily when you're getting a [inaudible] You're going to walk away. I've already got this illustration to a pretty advanced point, so I'm not so focused on coming up with brand new ideas. I'm not really in that open mode anymore. I'm really trying to execute this and not think too wildly about it. All the little micro decisions now that make it feel like a polished illustration. I think this is a really interesting point where I could add texture like the way that this is blending from black to white. I can go ahead and turn off my layer with the sketch and maybe I'll come back to this afterwards and add some different types of textures to make it blend from black to white. But for now, I feel like this one looks pretty solid. I don't love how the pencil is bigger than the skateboard like these aren't lining up. So I'm going to fix that really quick with the selection tool. Make sure I'm on the right layer and then I will just quickly transform that. It's divided between a couple layers right now, so maybe I'll go ahead and merge the layers, since I'm pretty confident I'm going to use these. So you just drag the layer? Yes. To merge them you can just drag layers on top of each other and it will group them and then if you want to merge them, you just have to click there on the group and then hit merge layers in group. Now it's all one layer of black and white. Now I can resize this and get it to be where I want it. I might have to redraw couple all the details because the selection wasn't perfect, but I'm fine with that. I'm trying to make this into as cohesive of an illustration as possible. And we don't want our eye to get stuck on any part of the piece. I'm pretty intuitively doing this because I've been doing this for a while, but if it's new to you, you can sort of squint. You can turn your illustration upside down and see what doesn't feel right and maybe you can add some details or fix some details in this to make it feel more cohesive. We spent a lot of time coming up with concepts earlier and all that leg work has led us to this almost finished illustration that's painfully simple, but the concept really comes across because we spent the time to go through some of our more generic ideas to finally come up with something that feels a little more unique. Now, we have that one looking pretty good. I'm going to go ahead and move on to the other illustration, the circle. This one's a little tricky. I like the idea of not having it be a perfect circle. Just going back to the idea of using your imperfections to your advantage. Everybody can draw a perfect circle with a digital tool, but the one that you draw will be slightly wonky and that's cool. The middle of the wheel. I like how this one, you don't really know exactly what you're looking at. It could be a loop, it could be a wheel, it could be just a flat circle and lives a little bit up to interpretation. I think a lot of people when they refine their illustrations they're worried that people won't get it. They won't get the concept. But actually people are a lot smarter than you think. It's good to leave a little bit of room for your audience to connect the dots and fill in the gaps. I want to make a new layer to draw the characters, so I can turn them on and off. A lot of these characters that I draw are most in my memory because it's so constant in my work these days, and I like to change up sort of all the other variables like the character remains relatively consistent and I'm able to change all the other aspects of it. I really think that's a great way to develop a body of work that feels like your signature. Find one thing, it takes a little while, but once you find one thing that you feel really comfortable drawing, it feels unique enough. You can then use that and just do more repetition of that with variations and create a whole series of work. Will I be drawing this character forever? Probably not. But right now, I've really been enjoying using it as a tool for experimenting. I think that they are all in slightly different positions. I could just copy and paste the same character, and have it be really symmetrical. But whenever possible, just like when you're looking at a piece of lettering and you see that, the two S's are the same exact S. It makes it feel less special, it makes it feel less custom. Taking the time to redraw, even if it's the same character, letter or an actual character, a couple of times really does enhance the piece. It's not something that everybody will notice, but they can almost feel it, and I think that's more important. I'm just going to go ahead and speed through these last two characters and finish this one up. The eye needs areas to rests when you're looking at artwork. If there's too much details, there's too many lines everywhere, one way to fix that is just to fill in some of the shapes with black. That way, all the other line work that's happening pops of it. It is not the character is coming from, its very clearly on top of this skateboards and closer to the viewer's eye. These wheels are weird so I'm going to redraw these. But other than that, I think this is almost done. Now I'm just going to spend a few minutes cleaning up and trying out a couple little details, maybe different areas where I can add more black into the illustration to make it a little stronger. I'm doing this on a new layer, as well you can see I'm building up a lot of different layers here and that way I can easily just turn things on and off and decide which ones stay, which ones go. That seems to help quite a bit, and then, also going to make the wheels three-dimensional. I don't think it's important that you see the other wheels on the other side of the board, really people can get it that it's a skateboard. You don't have to spell it all out for them. But I do think that they are little bit off-center. Right now I'm working on these two pieces as separate illustrations, but I like sometimes working and seeing multiple options because there's actually opportunities to combine the ideas, like maybe I can bring one of these characters up to that loop. I'll do that a little bit later after I get this one feeling really balanced. Just thickening up the outline around the illustration. In graffiti, this is called a power line and it really helps make it pop almost like a cartoon image. You can use the side of the pencil and it gives you a slightly different effect. Let's see what else we have here, scratchy pencil, a little bit lighter. I think that's the one I'm going to use. Could even put some texture like a shadow behind the wheels to make it look like they're actually on a surface. I don't have to actually draw the surface, but if I just put a little bit of shadow there behind the wheel, you get it that it's on the surface. Not sure if I'll give the whole skateboarder shadow or just the wheels. I think just the wheels. Then we can see with and without that texture, you can see how much that really adds to the piece. Makes it feel like a finished drawing, even though it's so simple still. We haven't gone and added that much to it and it's those little details that make a big difference. Alright. What I'm actually going to do is just duplicate the circle layer. I want to see how this looks with an extra circle around it and then I might fill that in with black. I'm going to try to add the character from the bottom sketch, because I'm actually liking the top one more, It feels much more unique. This, I've kind of seen this cycle mouse wheel type of thing before. I think this one's my favorite, but maybe we can make it a little bit better by adding one of the characters. I'm just going to duplicate the layer from just the characters. This is where it's really handy to have them as a separate layer. Now I have four to choose from. I don't think I can fit more than one or maybe two, if you want on the outside here and one on the inside. I can play and see which one would look best there. Now, I can see how it looks by turning it on and off. Let's see if I like it. I think I like it with the skater. It gives you an extra level because at first you're going to read the whole illustration as an object and then you'll start to see, what's happening here? We got a skateboard, a loop, a pencil, and a skater and it gives the viewer more things to look at. Sometimes I end up going a little bit too far and there's too much to look at, so finding that balance is really key. I think that's actually a big mistake that illustrators make, is that they over-complicate the illustration. Not just with like fancy decoration in details, but there's just too many concepts in one. But right now I feel like this feels really good. It gives you a focal point having that character in there. We just finished refining our illustration and making all the edits that we want to make until it's feeling finished and polished. I just want to run through three quick things to remember just to recap, as I was going through this refinement process, things you can keep in mind while you're refining your illustrations. First thing is about hierarchy, because when you look at a piece, you're going to see one thing first and then another thing second and maybe even something third. What is that first thing that you see? Remember we read left to right so, the bolder things and the things that are on the left side and the top of the illustration are going to be seen first. The second thing to remember is about balance. You want to make sure that there's not one point in the illustration where your eye is getting stuck. If it feels that way, you'll know by just looking at your illustration at different sizes and if it feels like your eyes getting stuck, you might want to add something to one side or subtract something from the other side where your eye is getting stuck. The third and final thing to remember is, of course simplify. This whole class was about simplification and communicating ideas through really simple images. If your illustration feels not finished, it might just be that there's too much going on and you can take things away until it feels done. Hopefully, those three reminders will come in handy when you're doing this project and any illustrations in the future. 9. Adding Lettering: Now that we've combined both illustrations, the strongest parts from all of our ideas into one piece. I'm going to see if, maybe adding some lettering, will help, to tell the story of what's going on here. Sometimes it's not necessary, and sometimes it actually really enhances the piece. Let's just see how it looks. Let's try a few different options. I'm just going to use the same brush. First start, now with my handwriting. Since what we are writing in the sketchbook was, skate and create, I'm going to bring that in. I think that one fits really well with this, just as is. I could do, an ampersand, between them, or I could do, the word and, I think I like, the ampersand better. You can play with scale from there and see, how big, that lettering should be. Move it around your composition. I can try to find a little pocket of negative space, to put lettering in, or I can even do an option where, It's incorporated inside the illustration. I'm putting this skate and create here. Cleaning up my layers later, It's okay to just leave it a little bit messy right now all over there. I think inside the loop might be my favorite. I think it helps balance out the fact that there's the character on the left side and now it fits it in a little bit, but I also could just do it without the character. Let's see, try one more thing where it's outside the skateboard but still, on the ark. It feels like it should be going the other way. Let's try it out. I think that one might be the winner. Some of these letters feels a tad heavy, so I'll just lighten them up a little bit by erasing away. Getting that balance of where the weight goes, where the thickest lines going, where the thinnest line goes is something that just takes a lot of practice. It's a lot like you don't want one part of the illustration to be too heavy. Because then the eye just stops moving and the illustration becomes less interesting. Now that we've finished, our, black and white illustration, I'm going to, export it. Quick export, and just save the image. And now I can use this for, any application that I want. 10. Developing Your Style: Looking at this illustration, I think if you take away the character, it almost doesn't look like it was made by me. The signature thing here is the character and also the skateboard helps to make it feel like my own style. But I wanted to just share a little bit about how I came up with this character and maybe you can do something similar with your process or create your own signature thing that's consistent in all your illustrations. When I was doing a lot of hand lettering back a few years ago, I was always using these chunky letters that didn't have a lot of negative space between them. I was also trying to create artwork that could convey emotions that weren't possible with words. I was trying to think of what's mark or something that I could bring it to all my illustrations that felt unique and simple. I really just took a lot of playing honestly. There was one point where I had broken my leg skateboarding and that was when I bought the iPad actually, and I was starting to experiment with illustration more and lettering combined. I was doing physical therapy for my ankles, I had to remember to do all of these stretches and poses and stuff to get myself back to health. That's actually where the character ended up coming from when I least expected, it was just my little doodles I was doing. I would post them around my apartment to remind myself to stretch in the gaps of my day. That's where I ended up coming up with it. There is no formula for coming up with a signature style. You have to just keep creating and then you'll start to notice patterns. So look back at your past work and keep making projects like don't think that style is fixed. It's really something that continues to evolve just like any organism. You have to treat it like a living, breathing animal. Hopefully this story was interesting or it sparked some ideas in you, and you can look back at your old work and start to notice some patterns. 11. Conclusion: If you didn't make it all the way through the process, that's totally cool. These videos are meant to be a resource for you that you can come back to in the future. I definitely find myself going back to some of those mental tricks and warm-up exercises whenever I start a new project. If there's one thing you take away from this class is that, simple images can go a really long way. And sometimes the most impressive illustrations aren't the most elaborate ones. They're actually super simple. If you finish your illustration or even just got part with through the process, I'd love to see your work and have it posted to the project section of this class. There's also a lot of other students that are taking the class, so feel free to check out their work, leave some comments. I'd love it if this class started a little bit of a community here. I am definitely going on here and getting feedback. I can't give you feedback if you don't post your project. So definitely, make sure to upload it whenever you have it ready, and I'll give you some comments. Thanks so much for taking my class. I can't wait to see what you've created. I'll see you next time. 12. Bonus: Tools & Supplies Pt. 2: I'll be sharing in this video the tools that we're going to use for the project, as well as a few extra pens and tools that I use for my projects, for murals, for all different kinds of artwork that maybe you can use for your work. The goal is really just to get you out in the world of sketching, making a free-flow illustration, not worrying too much about the finished product and just using the bare essentials. Beyond just these, I want to also share with you just some of the other tools that I like to use on daily basis, even when I'm making murals. I have a bunch of paint pens over here. This is my on-the-go kit and I also have a bunch of other paint markers that make different kinds of lines for different projects. A lot of my work is line-based, its linear. I love to have a lot of different options for paint markers that have different size tips, so that way I can keep the line thickness consistent without having to go over it many times to refine that mono-line thickness. The idea is that the paper actually determines which pen I'll use. If I have a small piece of paper, I'll probably use a smaller paint pen, unless I'm going for a super minimal illustration because the thicker the line, the less detail you can have. These are my top five tools that I use for black line work. Going from thinnest to thickest, the first one here is a micron pen. It's measured by the number of pica meters or something. So this is one of the thicker ones, is point A. The line that it creates looks like this. Nice and clean, very controllable, and they make this one in a lot of different sizes too. The next one going up in thickness is Posca pen. I should say that these are acrylic ink instead of alcohol or oil-based. Oil-based and the alcohol ones tend to bleed through the paper. I use those more for murals or street work like this one in the crank marker, which I'll show you in a second, but these ones are all acrylic. These ones make slightly thicker line like that. Moving up we have this Montana marker, which is chiseled tip. You can get a lot more line variation with it. I like to use either the thick edge or the thin edge and then you can also use the thick edge to get a slightly thicker line. Then we'll do the crank marker. This one was actually designed for graffiti, so it's very permanent and smells really good. Then it looks like this, really glides on the surface. But this one definitely will bleed through the paper. An alternative for making really nice thick line work is this square tip acrylic marker. This one won't bleed through the paper, but it still makes a nice dark line and you have the option to go back to the thinner side just by rotating the marker. All of these options really gives you a lot of flexibility for how you want to create on the fly and not having to go over your lines many times, you can really get in one pass exactly the line you are looking for. One of the other tools that I really love to use is an empty paint marker. I have this whole bucket right here of different size empty paint markers. Some of these are really similar to the ones I just showed you and some of them are even bigger on the tip, so you can get a super broad line in just one pass. Here's what it looks like when it's filled with house paint. That's the cool thing because you can fill it with really anything you want. It doesn't have to be just ink or paint. This is black house paint, but it could be glossy or matte. You do have to give it a nice little squeeze when you get started, but comes out really nice and uniform, the thickness. They make these in so many different varieties. I just like to collect them so that I have them on hand for whatever project I'm doing.