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Challenge- National Wildlife Day

I really liked the idea of this project because conservation and wildlife are big interests of mine. I was quite interested in the way that Christine mixes hand drawn elements with digital colour. I must admit I do prefer traditional techniques to digital but I do like the idea of adding to a traditional medium with digital, especially if the digital part can look as natural as possible- so that will be my aim in this challenge. My normal technique is very detailed scientific illustration so I am looking forward to trying to "loosen-up" and make some illustrations that are more fun.

Because I was really inspired to give the technique a go, to start here is my little experiment: india ink and black gouache painting....

and then I added some colour using the method described by Christine, using a PS watercolour brush:

which I quite liked because the texture of the painted bits showed through! 

Now I have to get on to collecting some reference material and doing some sketches of the wildlife day illustration.... be back soon!!

Research+Planning

I decided to start with the meaning behind national wildlife day- and one of the purposes of the day as stated on the website is to 'bring awareness to the number of endangered animals nationally as well as globally, that need to be preserved and rescued from their demise each year'- which I thought would be a good focus for this project, as its something I am passionate about. I started by brainstorming...

and decided that rather than choosing one endangered species- I would try to do the top 10 most endangered species in my illustration, and go for a sort of illustrative infographic look, perhaps showing how many of each are left in the wild.

First I had to find out what the most endangered species were- which isn't actually entirely possible, so instead I went with critically endangered species (according to the IUCN database- there are quite a lot) that were commonly cited as being the most endangered (eg the amur leopard of which there are only 35 left in the wild). I also used this wikipedia article and the ARKIVE database to choose species, trying to get one or two from each animal group. I ended up with 3 land mammals, 1 cetacean, 1 seal, 2 birds, 1 amphibian and 2 reptiles that are all critically endangered. The arkive database was also a great source of photographs to sketch from.

The species I chose:

Sketching from Life

Below are the 10 species I chose, a link to the photos I sketched from and my initial rough sketching from life (to get some idea of anatomy etc)

1. Amur leopard (photos)

2. Javan Rhinoceros (photos) and 3. Vaquita (photos)

4. Ivory Billed Woodpecker (photos)

5. Northern Sportive Lemur (photos)

6. Hawaiian Monk Seal (photos)

7. Brook Frog (photos) and 8. Leaf-scaled sea snake (photos)

I had great trouble drawing the frog- always have!!! argh...

9. Leatherback turtle (photos)

and 10. Kakapo- I had to have a New Zealand species because I'm in NZ! (photos)

(as you can probably see I used the backs of scrap paper for the sketches- text showing through from the back of the paper!!)

I then tried to figure out how I am going to assemble them together? I was tossing up between having them individually spaced out (2D) or having them assembled together and radiating out towards the viewer- if that makes sense. This stumped me for a bit so I left it overnight to think about!!\

I decided to go with having them all sort of 'life-like' assembled together (bottom sketch) rather than flat image (above left), leaving a bit of space around each animal so I can put some hand lettered info around them....hoping I chose the right option!

Here is version 1 of 'assembled' sketch

I didn't know where to put the lemur as all the pics I saw had them in trees- so I went with it clinging to the back of the rhino- makes it look a bit less realistic but I guess I am trying to get away from too much realism! I wasn't happy with the turtle's position, the amur leopards and rhino's heads or the frog- having so much trouble drawing the frog at the moment!!!

some changes for the second sketch:

Then I moved the woodpecker and the turtle slightly in photoshop- just so (I hope) it looks more balanced.

The little frog still looks a bit funny. Any experienced illustrators out there able to give me some feedback on this sketch?? I'm not sure if it looks balanced entirely/ compositionally?? Or if I need to move any of the animals...

I am going to print this sketch off slightly larger this afternoon, then can do some more alterations after work tonight! And do the value check on it. excited to get on to playing around with some mediums for the final too!

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Update:

Sketch alterations:

Ok, so I have made some changes based on Christines awesome suggestions- what do you guys think?

Might still make some small tweaks before I ink it up. I tried to make the snake look a bit more 'wriggly'- like they do when they are swimming through the water- might make it a bit more flow-y when I do the final.

Medium experiments:

I have also been experimenting a bit more with combining the traditional medium with the digital colouring....

Inital mediums (I tried chinese calligraphy brush+india ink, brush pen, coloured pencil, gouache painted)

Then colouring my favourites in PS. I also bought Kyle Websters watercolour brush to have a play around with, and tried that on a few of them...Here are a few of the combos I tried:

Brush pen+ digital watercolour- coloured VS

brush pen+ solid coloured digital

ink dip pen+digital watercolour brush

coloured pencil+watercolour brush digital

chinese brush inked+watercolour brush digital

My favourite so far is the brush pen effect at the top.

I have to go to work now but I'm going to ink up the final when I get back and see how it looks!!

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Update

Value/Shading chart:

Here is a quick value sketch I did over my sketch in Photoshop. I'm not sure if its really a "value" chart because I don't really have any backgrounds/environment- only the animals- so its more just to show the dark shaded spots as a quick reference....

Final inking:

I decided to go with the brush pen inking to start. Here is my final inked illustration:

I hand lettered the names of the animals with a fountain pen. I was going to add how many species were left of each, but decided not to this time as I wanted to keep it simple.

There are a few things that I am not 100% happy with (the leopards head, the frog and the placement of the snake to name a few!) but also am quite pleased with how the seal came out (shes my fave character) and quite happy with the kakapo too.

Now on to the digital colouring...

Colours

I loved all the details in the class about colour- I learnt a lot of stuff I didn't know before. Its also something I didn't think too much about before so I felt a bit lost to start off with choosing my colours! I started off trying to go for a limited palette of 3, but ended up having to add more colours because the animals were all different! Maybe I'm doing it wrong? Here is my palette I started with anyway.

I wanted to go for quite bright colours but not SUPER bright. Here is my first attempts, using drew-greens gouache brush:

and then playing around with the lowering the opacity a bit:

I feel a little bit unsure if I got the colouring right- would anyone have any suggestions?

I have also realised that for next time perhaps I'll take colour into consideration earlier in the concept planning. In this case it would have been good to organise the animals so the colours were also taken into consideration.

I'm going to try colouring it in again using a solid brush and perhaps adding some texture, but for now this is what I have for the challenge!

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Update

Colour palette

I found this great tutorial by Zoe Piel showing how to create limited palettes in photoshop and used it to make a new colour palette:

and then colour the image again (using a solid brush this time)

halfway through....

I'm a bit happier with the colour scheme in this one! May take some playing around but I am really enjoying experimenting with making these colour schemes to get one that is just right. I'm thinking I probably need to add a 'redder' red to start off with.

I feel like I'm a way off from getting to my "style" but I've really enjoyed this project- have learnt a lot about working digitally. I can't wait to play around with these techniques some more and make some more science based illustrations!

Any comments/crits much appreciated!!

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