Expressive Illustration: From Ideas to Execution | Roman Muradov | Skillshare

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Expressive Illustration: From Ideas to Execution

teacher avatar Roman Muradov, Illustrator

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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.

      Project: Illustrate a Concept Through a Word Pair


    • 3.

      Finding Inspiration


    • 4.

      Words & Associations I


    • 5.

      Words & Associations II


    • 6.

      Words & Associations III


    • 7.

      Preparing Your Illustration


    • 8.



    • 9.

      Digital Collage and Color


    • 10.

      Closing Thoughts


    • 11.

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About This Class

Join artist Roman Muradov for an in-depth look at the creative method he uses for creating narrative and conceptual illustrations. Inspired by his work for The New Yorker, the New York Times, Penguin Random House, Google, and the classes he teaches at California College of Art, this 75-minute class is perfect for helping visual artists of every discipline generate ideas, expand their visual vocabulary, and create sophisticated work.

Covering both concept and aesthetics, Roman shows you every stage of an illustration coming to life. From generating ideas and drawing with ink and graphite, to collaging and coloring the piece digitally, each step shows how a chance combination of words can lead to a beautiful illustration.

This class is ideal for illustrators, visual artists, and everyone who wants to explore the way inspiration works. Most importantly, you’ll leave with a smart method you can use again and again.

Meet Your Teacher

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Roman Muradov



Illustrator and cartoonist from Moscow, Russia, currently living in San Francisco. Clients include the New Yorker, New York Times, Penguin, Google and many others. Featured in the Society of Illustrators (Gold Medal), ADC Young Guns, American Illustration and numerous other shows.

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1. Introduction: Hello, my name is Roman Muradov. I'm an illustrator from Russia, currently living in San Francisco, where I teach at the California College of Art. I've worked for The New Yorker and York Times, Google, Motorola, Penguin, Random House, Lucky Peach, all kind of clients and books, magazines. I've done work for adults and children and whatever's in between. Most of my clients, particularly New York Times and New Yorker, only give me a day or two to come up with an idea or several ideas, usually. When I first graduated, I really didn't know how to approach this problem, and over the years, I've developed a decent method of getting around this creative blog and just starting to come up with ideas. I'm really thrilled to share it with everyone. My approach to generating ideas relies heavily on accident and association rather than self-expression. In that sense, it's somewhat related to experimental constrained writing and the traditions of high modernism, but I think it's applicable to any kind of art making and anyone could use it. Most importantly, it's very liberating in that it makes the whole process of art making very playful and fun. This class is based on one of the more popular assignments I give my students at CCA. In about 30 to 60 minutes depending on your pace, we'll be able to come up with a bunch of ideas for an illustration using only two words as your starting point. This class is for anyone who is tired of waiting for inspiration and who wants to expand their visual vocabulary and learn some new visual techniques. 2. Project: Illustrate a Concept Through a Word Pair: So, the project for the class is an illustration created using two words as a starting point. The illustration that you make can be pretty much anything. It can be narrative, it can be highly conceptual, it can be a mix of this, it can be humorous, or dark, or personal, or impersonal, completely anonymous if you manage that, whatever you like. The only constraint is that you have to use these two words and link them somehow. I've prepared a list of words that you can use or you can come up with your own words, it can be your favorites, your least favorites. I would recommend to choose words that don't really exhibit a great, inherent, creative potential, something almost random. So, in the list that I prepared, the left column is fairly loose and vague, and the right one is more concrete. I find that picking this kind of combination from left and right, loose and concrete, makes for a good mix. It allows for a lot of ideas to pop up in your head. It may seem to some of you a bit counter-intuitive to rely on some random words for inspiration, but it's actually one of the best ways I've found to escape the horror of the blank page, when you just don't know what to do. Also, when you think about it, an editorial assignment is not that far removed from what we'll be doing here, right? You get a very complex article. Well, usually. Even if it's not complex, it has a lot of words in it. But then, what you do is you try to boil it down to a few keywords. What a lot of artists do, myself included, is we write down these keywords after reading the article or maybe highlight them. Then, we play with this slightly more manageable chunks. The main skill that you will have to develop in this class, is the skill of reading. Vladimir Nabokov, in his lectures on literature said that, "A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader." So, each one of us knows how to read, right? We only need to take it one step further or two steps further, or how many steps distance allows and see where it takes us. When I say reading, I don't mean just reading words and text, I mean it in a much broader sense. I myself, read a great deal. But people find inspiration in all kinds of areas, but they can apply the same reading habits and skills to it. People can read into colors, smells, shapes, memories, memories are pretty much fiction aren't they? You're welcome to use whatever medium you like, whatever medium you're comfortable with, or maybe whatever medium you're not comfortable with. In fact, I always encourage people to step out of their comfort zone and pick a new tool. So, maybe it's a good occasion to do that. Also, if you draw on the digitally and I will be covering it in the last portion of the class, if you only draw traditionally, that'll be also covered in the middle. So, you can do whatever you like with these tools. Visual metaphors provide a very quick and easy solution for most conceptual assignments and therefore, I think there should be treated with a certain degree of suspicion. I don't think we often talk or even think in metaphors. So, it's not the most natural way of approaching things. It doesn't mean that you can't do it, but you should question what it accomplishes. So, for the project gallery, you can just show your final illustration and list the two words that you use. But, I strongly encourage you to show your process as well. Maybe sketches or just how you arrived at it. If you have several ideas and you can't pick one of them, I think it's useful to share it with people and ask for advice because this is very much how editorial illustration works. I'm usually not the one picking ideas, I send three or four at least to the art director and then, she picks one out. So, it's really good to practice this. So, a couple of closing thoughts. I would say that thinking outside the box is best to achieve, if you first examine each corner of the box. So, allow your born ideas to happen, don't censor yourself. They may lead to something far more interesting that you could ever imagine. Another thing is, try to be attuned to your brain and when it's feeling like coming up with ideas, and when it's feeling like quietly inking. Usually, we come up with the best ideas in the morning because our inner critic is still sleeping. Around midday, the inner critic wakes up and then, we can invite her in. Then, she can tell us what she thinks of all these things. 3. Finding Inspiration: After a while, once you have some idea of an illustration in mind, you can ask yourself, what this illustration accomplishes or will accomplish? Is it a joke? Is it a statement? Is it an opinion? I think one of the best thing you can do with illustration is ask a question rather than propose an opinion or make a statement. Because this invites the reader or the viewer to participate in it. So, you don't just agree or disagree or you realize, "Well, I've seen that now." You walk away thinking about that piece and you continue having a conversation with the piece. Of course, when I have to do a quick editorial saying about specific subject, It would be inappropriate to think about my conceptual ideas and propose grand questions. So, a lot of times it is good to just find out the best way to communicate clearly. But in my personal work, maybe because of that, I go the exact opposite road and I try to be as confusing as possible. One way of approaching illustration is by thinking of it as a series of very careful placed dots with no lines between them and you allow the reader either to see it as it is, as just a bunch of dots or to make connections between them however she likes. A couple of words about inspiration, Raymond Queneau, a French poet and novelist, wrote in one of his journals, "The poet is never inspired, because he is the master of that which appears to others as inspiration." Later on he formed Oulipo, which is a French workshop translated as the workshop for potential literature, where authors would come up with really convoluted and strange constraints to come up with startlingly original works. So, Georges Braque has a novel without the letter E. Queneau himself has a book in which one mundane incident is retold about 100 times, each time in a different style and that book particularly it's called Exercises in Style. I think there's a lot we can learn from that approach as illustrators. The way you draw your thumbnail sketches is entirely up to you. They don't have to be clear, they can be if you want. But I would advise you not to go into too much detail because you don't want to do the same thing twice. You don't want to waste your time on this and you also you don't want to feel precious about them. So, if you make a really nice drawing, it'll be harder to kill it. So, once you've exhausted all your ideas, it's time to invite our inner critic bag and this is the time to be critical. You can look at all these ideas that you come up with and then throw away some of them, maybe remixe them, do whatever feels right. Also remember that our minds can naturally gravitate towards elegant solutions because we like a narrative in our lives. We never have a narrative, but we want to. I think this is one of the reasons why a lot of experimental art or experimental literature in particularly is labeled as challenging or difficult, because it doesn't offer a sense of narrative, an art from beginning and be able to end. Again, I recommend you to take a break at this point. It's good to come back and let some distance happen. I think idleness is really important to the artistic process. It's just as important to let yourself do nothing for stretches of time. Because you are not doing nothing, you're actually constantly thinking about it in the back of your mind and then, when suddenly in the shower, idea pops into your head out of nowhere. It's not out of nowhere, it's out of this idle hours that you spend walking around, drinking tea or staring at a wall. So, once you have a good idea, you should look at it as a whole and also examine every element. So, look at each separate element, let's say you have a hammock, a hammer, and a parrot. You should ask yourself what each one of them accomplishes. If the answer to this question is not march or nothing, you should consider editing it out or maybe merging it with something, maybe put it in the background or maybe leaving it there. But you should question this. So, in editorial assignments for literature for instance, there is a very common aversion to depict in characters. If you look at New York Times Book Review, there will almost never see someone's face drawn in full detail. Well, why that? Well, there's number of reasons, I think most importantly you don't want to tell people what someone looks like when they can imagine their characters. You can see that also on book covers. So, the same principle applies to what you're doing. Is it a specific character that you have? If you have a character, how specific should it be? Does each element contribute something? Ask yourself these questions. So, aversion is constrained, any commercial assignment is always constrained in one way or another. You always have a format that you have to stick with, sometimes it's flexible but most of the time it isn't. So, it's good to learn to love this constraint and to get something out of it. For instance, a spot illustration is a good way to focus on one little aspect, a character or a detail. While landscape illustration can allow you well, a landscape or a portrait is good for anything that's vertically centered. Whatever you have it's good to analyze what the format gives you and try to use it to your advantage. For a lot of artists, the sketches are always better than the final. It's a very common problem that students complained to me about all the time. Unfortunately, there is no solution to it, but I have a few hints and tips that might help you. So, first of all, you might want to keep your sketches very loose. What happens when you do this, is you're not tempted to trace, but when you do your final they'll be more like you're still drawing, you're still coming up and improvising. You can also use a sketches as your final. In other words you can just go straight to final from the sketch, somewhere in the corner of a room or your desk or in a different room. Doesn't matter. In the back of your head maybe. Of course, this is very stressful because it feels like you don't know what goes where. What it allows for a lot of improvisation and it is a lot of fun. Most importantly nowadays with Photoshop, if you use that approach you can mix things together so if you have two or three attempts, you can take let's say, a head from one of them and torso from the other and remove the leg as altogether. Finally, you can mix this approach, so you can have certain details sketched out well and this is something that I personally do. So, for most of my sketches, I keep everything very loose. But then, if there is a face that I need to get right, particularly if it's a portrait, I would make sure that the nose and everything is more or less in the same proportion that it should be. So then, I can relax in some areas and I can be more precise in others. When you work in an actual assignment, the sketches that you present to an art director should be very clean, very easily readable, unlike your thumbnails and they should give a decent idea of what the final illustration is going to be. They shouldn't look like the illustration, you should remember that the art director hires you because she's more or less confident in your abilities, she knows that you can make a beautiful piece of work and you can dazzle her with all that stuff in the final. Right now, the main thing is clarity. This is optional but I would advise to number your sketches and very tidily put little borders around them when you present them. This allows the art director to understand the format, where everything goes and also under each sketch you can write a very brief descriptions. So, if you have a drawing that's a little loose, you can write, an albatross flying into a wind tunnel and then we will know what that is. You can also highlight your more conceptual metaphorical ideas there. The main difference between the thumbnail sketches you do for yourself and the proper sketches you present to the art director is clarity. You should remember that they usually are juggling 10 other assignments and they don't really have a lot of time to decipher your stuff. So, you should try to be as clear and concise as possible. Both in your emails and in your actual drawings. 4. Words & Associations I: So here's the list of words I prepared without thinking about them too much, and I don't think you should think about them too much either. So you can use this or you can come up with your own,. It's entirely up to you. The way I arrange them is on the left, the words that are pretty broad in meaning, like universe, wake, efface. On the right, the words that a little more concrete like chair, point, cup. At same time, it doesn't mean that they're not open for really intense interpretation. So, chair, it can be an actual chair or a chairman. Then the point, well, this one actually has quite a lot to do. Cup can be a cup as something to drink from or a championship cup. Okay. So now that you've picked your two words either randomly or not randomly, we can start the process. Now remember that reading is the way of seeing and seeing is a way of reading and you should read into these words. Don't just pick the first thing that comes into your head. Try again and again and see what happens. I think it's really important to learn to appreciate this process of just following your stream of thoughts, but not just in order to make good word, but also to appreciate the process itself and to find something fun in it. You can almost think of your art as a byproduct of doing them. Make sure you write down every single idea that you have, no matter how silly it may seem. What happens is they may lead to someone else and also you can rearrange and mix them together to come up with a new idea based on weaker ones. You never know. It's good to have ever seen down on one piece of paper. So the first two words I'm going to pick will be universe and tree. So, universe, what pops into my head? Infinite or massive. What about tree? Certain elements of tree, branches, bark, leaves, branching out, chain reaction. This kind of looks like a lightening. This may be a lightening. It's almost like an upside down tree, right? Maybe something can be about that. Let's leave it for now. What other? It reminds me of the bed and Ulysses. When Bloom goes outside and it's described as heaven tree of stars hung with humid night blue fruit. So I'll write it down, but I don't know if there's anything do with that. I think it's good to approach something like this from the angle of translation, almost like you trying to take something and translate it into images. But maybe not this particular image, trees in spac. The most obvious combination of tree and universe, most likely not one I'm going to use. You can start just doodling trees, see what happens. Happy tree on happy tree with cloud I suppose. Okay. Let's go back to universe. So what is the word? It's entire, whole, versus it's turned towards. Then we can examine the tree again by its element. What if we take something out? What if it's a tree without the roots or maybe just the roots. Lets write down roots. We can take out the middle and top. What if it's just one of these things? That could lead somewhere. What if we take this and some just branches? Let's try it. So, I guess it continues, and this kind of brings us back to universe, so it can be a tree that just goes into multiple directions. It doesn't have its root.It doesn't go anywhere. It's infinite tree. All right. We have something. Let's go back to this. It can be a universe of what? It can be universe of stories. This can be not an actual universe. Stories can be told in some sort of treetop house. We can have some friends telling stories in a tree. We can have a section where we draw the stories whatever. This takes up much more space than the tree house. So you can kind of show how imagination takes greater amount of space allocated to us. Let's go back to this. What does this remind? It's circle, so it's like a clock. These are like hands of a clock, again brings us back to the universe. What if we put this little fellows on the branches? So it can be a bunch of little people jumping from branch to branch infinitely. Can be just one person or several. I guess if it's a clock, it can go in circle. It can be birth to death like a cycle of life. But this is really boring, but I'll write it anyway. It reminds me a little bit of Italo Calvino's Baron in the Trees, which is a great novel in which a young man climbs up a tree and never climbs down. So we can maybe steal some of that imagery. A little guy with a sword on a tree can be funny. So what if it's just one person? Maybe it's not this. Well, if it's chasing himself, tail, self whatever. So this can be funny. Then he jumps from branch to branch. Where does he look? If we have him chasing with a sword the next one, then you have the connection from one to the other. He could wield a shield, I suppose, but that feels a little forced. I suppose he could look back. So he could look back and find the next one, who is also looking back. So then you have all the connection going through. That's not overly obvious. Well, it is obvious, but it's not as obvious as a shield. So here we already have some meaning emerging out of nonsense really. I will just combine in different things. So he's chasing himself, he is advancing while looking back and this already seems like a question. Is he moving forward? Is it a loop? What's happening? What does he wear? Is it the same hat? Maybe it can be a variety of hats. So it can be like a formal hat, an adventure hat, so it could be different roles in life. All this I like it because it's pretty loose and it allows lot of interpretation. So, let's do another drawing. Draw infinite universal tree of everything ever. How many people do we have here or instances of a person? Well, probably 12 would be a bit too obvious with the clock. I think six is a good number. That's half of that. They can be chasing each other jumping from tree to tree. It can look pretty silly. The direction is also important. I guess, he could go kind of in a wave right. So it can be a circle it or it can be something like this. I think this will work better because it looks like a parabola. So it's highs and lows of life. We can have some seasons. Is that too much? I don't know. Yes, I think it is too much. We can have only two seasons. For instance here it will be leaves falling, and here they'll be blooming. So you get the idea that time passes but it's very much in the background. It's not obvious. Then suppose with this, you can kind of make an animated gif of it or just rotate it for your own amusement. This may be empty, so you could add some skies. Are they necessary? Not particularly. They could just fill up the corners thus making it a more appealing shape. Conceptually, it could be more like heavens or something like that or us looking down at him through some sort of center of the universe. Of course, it can be stars or little moon. That could be a moon or sun, anything. Here I'm not really trying to come up with one great illustration but trying to show you how many different things I can milk out of this. Okay, so I think this is more or less exhausted and we can probably move on. 5. Words & Associations II: Okay, the next one is "efface and cataract". Efface, that is fade, modesty, face, of course. Cataract, I like it because it has several meanings it's waterfall, flood I think, and also cloudy effects on the eye, lens doesn't have to be an eye for instance. Well this is a little less obvious connection than the previous one. So, let's consider the sound of this word rather than their meaning. So, efface it's very soft. Kind of lends itself to a portrait maybe, well because it has the word face in it. Let's write it down. Cataract it's much more harsh as it sound which is great because we have a combination of soft and harsh. There's the cat in it. Don't think there's anything that can be done with cat but worth writing it down. So, let's work with this first of all. So, we have a portrait. A person can be covering the face, literally, like this. So, what happens there? Where are her features? Well her features are hidden under the hands, but where can we put them? Would we put them here? This is kind of weird, it looks like a mistake so it can be a nice little confusing image. Kind of expressions can be. So, here if you look at this divorce, it looks like she's probably unhappy or crying. So, if we have an unhappy face that's one message so she's sort of hiding that and it's in the background but is inescapable, you can still see it. If it's a happier face, then it's more playful terms like hide and seek, emotional hide and seek. Perhaps a metaphor for everything. So, it can be a huge face. Was a little portrait hiding it in one eye. Looks pretty weird, but it could be done. What about a waterfall? So, it can be a waterfall of tears. The face can be melting in the waterfall. Not grotesquely but sort of stylized melting. They plan to do about the glass that is half empty or half full. Cliches are interesting because there is a lot you can do with them, but if you use them on their own they're just boring. It's like you have to be really obvious about what you're doing and that you're using them in some clever way, and I don't see a particularly clever way for this. Okay, so cloudy eye. There's something, there's cloud in your eyes are the statement. Singing a song with folders is about clouding your eyes from entertainment, can be like air travel, sky. Eye on the world, maybe, I don't know. Okay, let's see if we can frame her in the background maybe it can help. So, if instead of having a nice straight portrait, we tilt it like this. That keeps them interesting, [inaudible] it. It's a little uncomfortable, something is off but we don't really know what. If you do it like this, then it's really obvious. If you tilt it a bit, makes kind of a slightly discompopulated, in fact, you can make an effect like this, like you just made free transform in Photoshop. That also makes it a little strange but not obviously so. What about the background? Okay, so this can be a window. What if the frame is like this, but the panels of the windows are sraight? So, this almost looks like a badly plagiarized Mondrian painting. So, I could look at that for research. Then cataract, well it could also be raining, for instance. So, this will cover us for that. Okay, so, here we can have an image that is, whose aim is mainly to confuse. It doesn't really have a message. I'm not trying to say anything with it, but you can kind of look at it and create your own story. And the other thing to consider with this kind of competition is tangents of course. So, here I framed it right on the tangents. Now, this is technically an article mistake. I think here it will work well because what tangents do is they create tension, and here tension is not entirely unwanted. Otherwise, if I wanted it to look more cozy I could have cropped it like this, for instance. So, this decisions are entirely up to you but it's good to remember the tangents are not a mistake, a tool, and it can be a mistake where they can be very useful. And lastly, we can consider how this can be drawn in terms of the rains. The rain can be straight lines which is orderly pleasant. It can be lines like this which doesn't look like a rain, but once you have a lot of them it looks like a kind of a strange rain and we can have massive drops and that looks like tears a little bit. So, you have, it's not really a metaphor, but it's a connection forms like a visual pond. It makes you sink or one saying well ostensibly being another thing. And again it all boils down to cliche in how you express so you can write about something that's everyone's written them like rain you can draw it, but it's how you do it. You can go and do it very straight or you can come up with a vision of rain that no one's ever seen, and that will be yours entirely. Of course it should serve a purpose. It shouldn't be just gimmicky. Okay, so, let's say I will take this one up and obviously I would change the lot in the final execution. 6. Words & Associations III: So, lastly let's do listless and corner. I really like this word, particularly because it sounds nice. There's a lot of repetition to it. There's great written, have no idea what it means. No, I do know what it means. But let's dissect it. So, the most obvious stupid thing is without a list. It's not what it means but I'm going to write it down because it's funny to me. So, no energy, melancholy. There's a great written to it, listless. What about corner or angle? Let's draw a corner. First thing comes to mind, four corners, right? So, box, room, home, cozy, constricting, can be many things. Corner as a verb, two corner someone, sounds unpleasant. Corn, food, corny. I don't know, maybe no. Corner of composition. So, for instance, if we pursue this, we may not have an actual corner playing any role, but we can think about the composition to put our elements somewhere around the corners, which could be unusual. Of course, if you have a character, and they say, the character is facing a wall. That makes it really uncomfortable. Usually, when you're drawing a portrait, you will want to have more room on that size where the character's facing than on the back of the head. Well, you could reverse it and play with that idea. A person could be looking into corner, which would be very unusual. Let's think about geometry. In geometry what like is that you can have something like this, which is not 90 degrees, but when you draw this and it becomes 90 degrees. So, it's a nice ways of deceiving, not deceiving but using symbolism to that degree in a very mundane way but maybe we can use it artistically as well. Okay, so let's sync here. So, we are looking at this sound wave, what it's like a wave, Virginia Woolf. No, am not writing that down, otherwise it will take another hour. Wave-like, it don't have to be a wave, obviously it can be just the undulation. Wave-like is a listless quality. Where do we feel that? At a place like a party, right? So, it would drift from place, from corner to corner, feel listless, lest either, you probably do too, otherwise you wouldn't be watching this class. You would be at a party, not drifting but talking to someone interesting. Again, it reminds me of Saul Steinberg's party, a drawing in which she drew each character in a separate style gallery. So, in the gallery, people drift from place to place, and it's actually really interesting to watch people drift around across the gallery and do not look at the paintings, just look into movements of the people. It's very curious how they have different modes of movement. That reminds me of that recent conceptual pieces of little lights going on and off, maybe not the cherry cot bed. Let's really focus on doing one little drawing instead of creating a ton of ideas here. Because I could go on but we have limited time. So, let's pick a composition this time. Let's say, there's a city and we have one person looking into the corner. Maybe it could be a corner not of the same but a composition within a composition. All right, so frame within the frame. Let's arrange it a bit differently like this. It's two vertical things, that's interesting it can be. So, this is like a gallery. So, it can be like a Mondrian is saying. Now, let's say this can also be a window. Window is what? That's four corners. I'm going to pretend that I came up with this earlier. It doesn't matter, really. Could be something with no corners, it's like the opposite. So, we can come up with a composition in which nothing of any importance is in the corner. Which is actually pretty hard, everything will be centered. So, let's have the character, not being in a corner and something else be in there. So, why not combine this to have a city and a gallery? Why not have a city viewed as a gallery? So, I think for this, a vertical composition would be better in fact, because we can have tall buildings. So, let us say we have a main building that will be dark, and there is a window, that's also painting, and we have a person looking at it. It might rain, I'm going to take rain from the previous one. It makes for, what allows me to have some glow from the window. I think it could be a nice visual effect. Now, this looks a little voyeuristic in an unpleasant way. What if it has a little dog on it? That's a little less lonely. I'm sure you can be a voyeur with a dog. It's not unheard of. Well, it's unheard of for me, but I'm sure this happened, and after all dogs don't have any morality, or do they? But what about we write a little sign under it. So, this really makes a difference, right? So, we have a window that sounds private window. The window and there is a name of the piece, then we understand that, "Okay, I guess like a window is a piece of art." So, in the window, there can be some kind of painting. Let's say, different medium. I'm going to write right away because that makes a lot of sense. So, this can be done in ink, and this can be, say pencil or whatever. Now, we can think about now. So, this window, again a Mondrian, it reminds me of the window I had back in Moscow or actually in Petersburg. I remember my cousins, they had this really bizarre window that looked like a very bad Mondrian caveat, that wouldn't make any sense. There will be this little partition that don't open. No one really knows why they were there. So, I'm going to try to remember that, not look it up, and it's probably going to be much more grotesques than the actual windows. I'm sure they're not as bizarre as I remember them from my childhood, but it will take that. So, what's here, I think it makes sense to make more of this window paintings, kind of diminishing at a distance, and a couple of more people looking at them. All right, so now I think it comes together, because we no longer have a voyeuristic scene, have a bunch of people, they're all in agreement, and also the question arises, is it an actual person that they're looking at, or is it just a window, or is it a painting? So, all this stuff happens on the borders which makes it fun for me. Okay, let's finish this one. Now, I could go on and come up with more ideas but I think it's better if we make one a finished piece for you to look at. 7. Preparing Your Illustration: So here, I put together a little sketch that I can hung directly over. As you can see, it's not a beautiful drawing, to put it mildly. Of course, I could just go and make a nice tight sketch. But as I said I like to keep things very loose. What I want here is just a placement. So, I know what goes where. You might have a specific format for this. I don't really care, particularly because I work with specific formats all the time. This is my little break, so I'm going to figure out the format later. I think this should be rotated a little bit. So, I'm going to mark that probably the other way. Now, let's consider how to finish all this stuff. I think the top can be done in ink and this one bit can be done in pencil. So, we need to have the language to lady from the listless or the catalogue rather. Her face is more or less in there but it's repeated as multiplied and then enlarge here. I think I might try to do it in three different layers and see how they fit together, but it might be a bit much and maybe I'll just do one there and then color it in Photoshop. The background I guess I'll figure it out later. I'll probably have a medium-sized figure here and couple of figures here and one here, and then the cityscape it will be diminishing. This here, it's really good to approach this as a design shape and not think about the actual roofs. Do they look like roofs? No, not really but they get the message across. We can have a nice reflection on the tail. Now, this person I deliberately put an umbrella here. I don't want anyone to know who that is. So, we don't know anything about. As I mentioned, here it's not really important in the slightest, what the age of a person or a race or gender. So, I'm going to obscure all that and focus just on that piece that he or she or whatever is observing. Okay, so, let's start with the character. So, I have a very economic approach to art making in that I feel every single sheet as much as possible. I use cheap paper and I try to be wasteful altogether. So, a lot of people prefer to start with something less stressful like the background. But I like to dive right into it. So, if you use a brush, it's good to keep it hydrated so it doesn't die. Let's say I have this brush is extremely old. I'm done so much work with it, it still works more or less okay, but it's getting old, all its bristles are coming tone. So, it's really good to be in tune with your mood. Right now, it's the middle of the day, I never ink. This time of the day. Well, I've got to so, I'm going to just do it. Now, to do something like this you just have to do it for a couple of years and then it happens. Again, it's nice to have a steady grip but not too hard. The way I draw it, I always go from one point to another. I never do something like this, I stop and then follow it. This just my personality, I'm are really impatient. So, if I were to draw someone's face, I would just go like this. If I were to draw lets say a pipe, I would do it in one motion, so that's a pipe I guess. I like to have scrap paper around all the time so I can just test whatever I'm doing. For this, I'm using back of my syllabus or manuscripts or anything. So, mark making is a lot of fun to do as warm-up and just to explore what do you want to do? When I started, I will just draw a very clean nice sayings like this the reason will be very tidy. I'm just making shapes right now. Later on, I'm moving on to making deliberately chunky shapes with a bit of dry brushing. Now, I use my fingers quite a lot, which is very fun but it took me a long time to figure out how to do it properly. It seems effortless but it's not. You can do a lot with the brush, you can hit yourself and create this splatter. Again, hit the paper, you can do it like this. People have all you and how you hold the brush can be this, can be that. I think whatever works well for you. So, if you want to make a very shaky uncomfortable line, a little war hellish you might want to hold it this way. If you want something smooth and nice, it's probably bad to hold it like this, but again it's entirely up to you. So, with pens are much easier to use because they're metal. So, you can easily make a straight line with no effort at all. You don't have to be particularly skilled or anything. You can also scratch it like this, this pen is also pretty old you can see it's tilted on the top. When it separates completely, it becomes pretty much useless. But I think I can still get something out of it. You can have a nice variation of lines with this tool. It's great for lettering. 8. Inking: So, for this, because we have atmospheric piece, I'm going to try to do it in a smudgy fashion. So, I'm not sure if I should use a pen, but I'm going to go ahead. If not, I'll just do another version. One of the hardest thing about doing this is making this very nice pretty line and then ruining it. So, it's a bit of killing your own baby so, it has to be done. Okay, this looks pretty messy, I think we don't get and create those separation in the umbrella folds. So, I can try to do this, so you can get a look of it, it's slightly beaten umbrella, it's been around. Now, as I might have mentioned, I came up with this technique pretty much by accident. So, I really encourage you to make mistakes and find your own little tools. Because there's so much that can still be done that is under explored and we really have a lot of potential. Okay, so this umbrella is looking all right. I'm going to try another one. Now, because we have Photoshop, I can just say delete this bit and then clean it up later, or I can use whiteout if I want. Okay, I'm going to try to do it with a brush. Okay, I don't really know which one I like better, but I can just put them together in Photoshop and then pick one. Sometimes if you're really patient, you can combine two different versions. It's not that difficult, it just takes some time. Okay, I'm going to leave the umbrella for now, and move onto the person. So, I'm going to start with the darkest area which would be under the arm. What I do with tape is I apply it badly, so it's not too tight, and when you remove it, it creates an effect of badly printed material. Okay, let's take it off and we still get a nice rough edge. I only recently started using this method and I really like it. Okay, this is more or less working. So, this looks better than this, and I'm going to do that, all right, to mix them up which should be really easy. I'm going to do legs separately, again, just to show how things can be composed, and also because I have no idea what they should look like, so I can try a couple of options. Now, this process, drawing is actually just a fairly small part of it and it's more like a collage of different building blocks that I'm putting together now. I'm going to do one more attempt at the torso, just because I have some space here, and I hate to see it wasted. Okay, I have three options to work with now, so I should be able to get something out of it. Okay, clouds in the background, this should be easy. The effect of putting a finger in each line on top of ruining the line, it's almost like a reverberation in music, it doubles and triples everything. Of course, you can achieve very similar effects with brushes and whatnot. For me it's just very tactile fun, it's really more about the process than the result. Now, in terms of architecture for instance, I'm not particularly patient when it comes to observing things and sketching outdoors, which is not great. But again, it's possible to use every weakness you have to your advantage. So, when I draw buildings, I really think of them as shapes rather than actual things where people live. Well, it doesn't make for buildings that look like buildings, but it certainly makes for buildings that don't look like other buildings that people draw. Which I think is in end more important. After all, you're not drawing buildings, you're drawing your vision of them. So, when I have these three sheets of paper, hopefully it won't be more than three, and when I assemble this on the computer, it will be almost like playing with Legos or something. So, here I'm going for very specific combination of looseness and exactitude. You will notice that I didn't wait for ink to dry on this spot and put tape on top of it as it was delivered. Well, this was not delivered and I don't like it. Oh, well, good thing is, nowadays all this can be fixed. Okay, this looks great. Okay, so let's switch the media, and I think I'm going to try to do everything in one layer. Otherwise, stacking them will take too much time and it might be a little too intense because, we have a lot of smudges and inks going on, and then if we have color overlays that is too much information. Now, my fingers are still covered in ink, so I can mix them and in fact, I've never done this before, so, I'm curious how this will turn out. Now, it would be reasonable to draw the pencils over this actual frame, but I'm drawing it over this terrible sketch, because I wanted to align badly. So, we're getting even more accidents and at this moment, I'm not only encouraging them, but I'm provoking them. Obviously, if you like cleaner artwork then you should ignore this. The sketch is so bad that I can't even understand what I drew. So, I'll just draw something else. Now, it's probably a book, okay. Now, when I scan it in, I will be able to color each one of these lines while retaining their faded texture. So, if I were making this for a client, first, I would have colored the sketch a little bit. So, I would have picked the colors and I would have gotten an approval on that. Even for myself, if I'm working on something a little more stressful and important like a book cover, I might want to figure out the colors before I go into the final. Because the color decisions that you pick out might affect the way you ink it. But, here I am open for improvisation, so I'm going to scan it in, I have no idea how we'll color it, maybe it will have very little color, maybe it will be pretty vibrant. I think one thing I know is that, this window should have a glow, and I think graphite is a really good tool to simulate that. I don't like the way her lips looks, so I'll just draw it again here. Now, because I'm somewhat aggressive in my drawing style, things break quite a lot and this is another reason why I have a lot of accidents in my work. So, I break pencils all the time, and I've been broken nibs which are made out of metal. If you're more patient, then you might discover completely different styles based on your temperament. Finally, I'm going to make little chunks that I can then color for the windows in the background and they should be also graphite. So, probably I won't use those window frames or I might. Now, for the glow, I'm going to use a blue brush that I have reserved for graphite. I'm going to use some graphite, and this thing is not easy to wield so be careful, for once. I think this might be more interesting for the buildings, then you have the medium leaking into the real life. So, you have the paintings or the windows, they're made out of graphite. But maybe it's good to have a bit of that in reality as well. Now, the way that I draw with a brush it may look pretty effortless, but there's a lot of micro movements that are second nature. Those you can develop them one by one and then the more you do it they become second nature. Then third nature, they have so many natures you don't know what to do with them. Can open a zoo. Okay, I think one last thing that popped into my head are raindrops on this, on the people. I might not use them in the end, but they create a nice framing. Here, I can go with an eraser and okay. Then I can take this and maybe convert it into a screen tone, do more effects with it so it's not quite as blatant. So, I think I have enough material to collage something out of it. So, what do we have? Is this three pictures. We have the character, we have the background, and we have the additional stuff. The next step would be to scan it all in and assemble it. 9. Digital Collage and Color: So, now, we have all our pages scanned in. I put them here together in one single file for the sake of convenience. But of course you can have them in separate files, which is what I do usually. Now, the first thing to do, is to level them out. So, we select the area, it could be the entire page, or part of it, and we push the levels, usually in both extremes, until it looks right. So, the background is now whitish. This is a sketch, so it doesn't matter here too much. For something like this, we have several separate areas. Some of them may need to be darker, some may need to be lighter. So, what I do, is I level up first the whites, so the background is pretty clear, and then I take each area, and I approach it separately. So this one, should still remain pretty light and I'm not going to make it much heavier. This one, might need to be darker. This one as well. Now we've done that. We go to channels, called command or whatever the alternative is on PC, control I imagine, and then you hold that, and press the channel Gray, and you go back to layers, and create a new layer. And then you take the fill, first you inverse and select, and then you fill. You can do that with any other tool, but this is the quickest. Now what happened, is we have separated all the black from all the white. So, now it's on transparent background. To see clearly, I'm going to put in another white background underneath, and now I can select this bit, let's create a new file in CMYK, there we are. Now, I'll crop it later. For now, that will do. For the sketch, I'm going to put it to multiply, and keep it very light, very transparent, I don't really need it to be honest. The sketch is there just to know what goes where. Let's start with the background. Because why not? In my current work I try to gather everything in one layer. Now, I'm going to clean this up a little bit, so I like this texture effect, but at the same time, it's the background. I don't think it needs to be quite that dirty. How about this umbrella? I think I like it better. The other one is too nice. I might use both. By both I mean, I might try both, and see which one works better. Not two umbrellas at the same time. Although once, I did redraw someone's face next to it, and then I really like how two faces looked. That affected the story a bit, but it made a very nice stylistic shift, and it also fit in with the narrative. Sometimes an accident can inform more than you would expect. I'm not going to polish too much. Just a few edges. So, here, I wrote mix. Let's take this one as a starting point. Now, I see here that I've forgotten to draw the umbrella handle. Which is a shame. Okay. There we go. There is use to it, I suppose. I can hopefully take this bit, and say it's an umbrella handle. It is very satisfying to do stuff like that. Because it feels like cheating, but of course, it's not cheating. Because I did draw it. I didn't say it could be an umbrella handle, but well, it's even better. Let's say for the sake of argument that I like this bit. Because this is not really about making a great piece of work, but showing your different techniques. So, I'm just going to show you how you can mix two images together that are not really made for mixing. What I do, is I put the two bits, and then transparency is still there this about halfway. This allows me to mesh them really nicely. So, I can make it a little bit smaller, and I can delete the excess and now I pronounce it. Okay. I've done that now, and then I can delete the other a bit, and now, and I can turn it back to a 100, and there we go. It's almost seamless. Now, to be honest, I prefer the original better. But I'm going to keep it, again, for the sake of our little exercise. Now, when it comes to coloring, I would say, especially if you are working with an art director, it's really important, and in fact one of my friends who is an art director, when she came to visit my class, and I asked her "What is your biggest complaint with artists?" She said that it's when the artists don't send her color sketches. Because an art director wants to have a fairly decent idea of what the final will look like. Of course, they do want to be surprised in a good way, by a good way it means something that is still publishable, but a little interesting. They don't want to be surprised to the extent that they need to call you back for revision two hours before the deadline. So, coloring is something that you can lock up pretty easily in Photoshop, and then just show it, and get an approval. It will save a lot of time for both of you particularly, if you aren't coloring in a more or less traditional way, and then even with something like this, revisions are not hard, but it might take a while, while a mock up takes mere minutes. So, what I'd do, is I just- showing blocks of different color, with different degrees of transparency that I change here through the keyboard, or on somewhere else. And this process, also takes a lot of time. For several pages in my book, it would take five, six hours, just to paint these basic colors. And again, here I'm not going to do that. I'm going to be pretty straightforward. So, for the inside of the painting I'll use colors that are fairly close to each other. So, I have this as a reference, I'm going to put it away and think about it later. Let's put some people, enough is enough. Let's finally get to the coloring. I'm going to take this main color, and apply it to the black area. Now, it's not quite so black. I think it should be a bit darker though. How about this? We go and update, so to speak, our color library, let's see how this color shades. Awful. So, I'm going to pick something more neutral. Almost gray. Once you've put things into context, of course everything changes, and the nice color combination on in abstract can be no doubt appealing in quote unquote reality. Now, in this sketch, I have the entire thing mapped out I believe, but I'm not going to spend all this time doing it exactly right. Otherwise, it will take way too long. But this is usually how I go about. Because it still allows you to improvise those colors, but it gives you more or less a good idea of what goes where. What I just did here, I simply locked the layer with this button, and then, you can draw right on it, and it will obtain that color that you were using, which is very convenient. As you can see, if you follow this approach all the way, and you carefully color all the lines, then you will in fact have to get rid of the lines, and the whole thing becomes almost painted. Which is a really nice and effective way of faking painting, if you ever find yourself in need of doing that. What we can do is, create a clipping mask on the background, and then give it a little bit of a back glow, and that will allow the foreground to stand out against the background. It's a bit of a cheap trick, but, why not? All right. It still looks not great, because it's not cropped, and cropping is really where everything comes together, or doesn't. And that's it. Let's call it a day, with perhaps one last adjustment. And one last last adjustment, just to make it a little clear. All right. Thanks for watching. 10. Closing Thoughts: So, to me success is a very questionable concept. One person's successful illustration can be another person's worst nightmare. So, there is no objective way of judging this, but I think there are a few things that our directors, other artists, and the general public look for in a good illustration. You may want to adhere to the standards, you may want to create your own, or you may want to discard all of them altogether. First of all, it's clarity. Is illustration clear? If it's not clear, is it in a good way or in a bad way. In other words, is it confusing and muddy and you can't understand what you trying to do, or is it intriguing and a little strange. The other quality to look for is depth. Is it just a statement that you instantly understand and move on, or is it something that encourages the second read. A lot of great illustrations are immediately appealing, but then there's a subtlety almost between the lines. Lastly is execution, which is probably the most objective criteria. If you're trying to draw like David Shrigley and you come up with a beautiful brush drawing, then it's a failure. If you trying to draw like drill into market, and you come up with a drawing that looks like David Shrigley then in that sense it's again a failure. You should stand this standards for yourself and follow them yourself. Myself I try to do both. A lot of my commercial work, I'm very clean and orderly. While in a lot of my personal work, I go the opposite way, and I try to be as messy, and unattractive as possible. I often even redraw things several times because they look too good, and I want a certain quality of accidental awkwardness in them. When you put your project in the gallery, and you look at other people's work, try to be constructive in your comments. Avoid too much compliments and too much rudeness, or in fact avoid rudeness altogether. But at same time try to be honest. Remember that in illustration communities, people tend to be very nice to each other, which is great, but you don't always get a lot of critique and advice. This is one of the rare opportunities, where people are actually encouraged to be honest to you. Try to use most of them. When you're looking at other artist's work, try to avoid general statements like I like it or it reminds me of a stick. Try to pick certain elements that seemed successful to you, or are not working that well. Even if you can suggest some improvement, that'll be even better. Finally, considering the infinite combinations of assignment you can get here, why not try again? You can take a different combination of words, maybe do it later in a few months or in a few days or in a century, and just see what happens. The thing is, the more you do this approach, the easier it becomes. Soon enough, it gets like second nature, and ideas start popping into your head seemingly out of nowhere. This brings us to the end of the class. Thank you so much for your time. I hope this was useful to you. Please don't forget to share your work. I'm really curious to see what you come up with. Good luck. 11. More Creative Classes on Skillshare: