Sunday, 28 July 2019

Chronicles of Azaria- Explore Azaria via World Anvil!

Hello everyone! So, some of you might remember that I am an author as well as an artist (yes yes I know it's been a while since I've published anything, you can blame my medical training :P). Now that I finally have more time to myself, I have gone back to my Chronicles of Azaria series and am now working on the third novel, The Blessing, which will complete the Goddess Saga of stories. Once I am close to finishing this I will give an update about publishing dates etc.

As you can find out on my Chronicles of Azaria page, this series is unique compared to many others in that it will have four stories set in different time periods. Of course Azaria doesn't stay stagnant during these eras, and so in order to keep things organised and easy to reference, I have created the world of Azaria in WorldAnvil, an amazing website which allows you to craft a detailed, living breathing world and share it!

 Chronicles of Azaria on WorldAnvil

This is very much still a work in progress, and I have not added in all the details of all the eras as it will spoil upcoming story content, but you can browse through Azaria's cities and see what they are famous for, explore the woods and mountains, learn about the infamous Tale of the Binding, and read character bios for the main characters of the Goddess Saga at your leisure!

Want something more amusing? Check out my Encyclopaedia Azaria where my characters will explain to you various pieces of Azarian lore!

Want to build your own world? You can use WorldAnvil's basic features for free- check them out!

Friday, 19 July 2019

How to Design a Fantasy Book Cover

How to Design a Fantasy Book Cover

A cover can make or break a book, regardless of the old saying, and it really is important to invest the time and effort into getting/ creating a brilliant cover (not just a 'good' cover). Here I hope to cover (no pun intended) step by step how I made the book cover for my book, The Binding. I don’t claim to be an expert, but hopefully through sharing my methods you might pick up something useful.

This tutorial is meant for ebook covers. Paperback books for POD are slightly more tricky, and I'll cover some of the differences at the end.

I used a combination of Photoshop CS2 and Elements 9.0 (mostly due to brush compatibility issues), and my Wacom Bamboo Graphics Tablet (not required).

WARNING: This tutorial requires a very strong grasp of Adobe Photoshop. If you're unfamiliar with the software, I strongly suggest you find a professional to do the cover for you. All of the techniques I've used were gleaned from free online tutorials and personal experimentation. However I have been using Photoshop for years for my own artwork, so while these skills can be taught, don't expect to learn them overnight!

Access the tutorial via Pinterest or DeviantArt:

Saturday, 13 July 2019

5 Amazing Art Tricks I Wish I Knew Earlier

So I've been drawing for a number of years, self-taught, and while that does sound impressive to a lot of people, it comes with some drawbacks. Even with the vast resource that is the internet and all the excellent tutorials, hints and tips on various websites (click here to view some of my favourites), there are just certain little things that aren't ever 'taught' per se.

Reflecting on my art journey, I thought it might be helpful to come up with the top five art tricks I wish I'd known earlier. Some of these I've picked up through trial and error, some through online resources, and I hope through sharing them you might pick up something useful!

1. Use references

When I started drawing again in my early teens, I never really got this. I spent most of my time following simple tutorials, drawing shapes and making them vaguely humanoid (proportions and things aside), and not once were references mentioned. I did copy a few screenshots now and then, but was never consistent with it. I was also quite afraid of being accused of plagiarism, as occasionally I would reference poses from other art (you should really use stock photos for this purpose, as I have now learned!).

Copy of a screenshot from the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion

However, a few years ago I came across a lovely post on tumblr that outlined how best to use references, along with a Mark Crilley video. Almost instantly I noticed a huge leap in quality- suddenly my faces looked like faces, and currently my birds have never looked better!

A redraw of an old fanart I did of Squall from Final Fantasy VIII, the old one with no reference and the new one with!

There is a potential pitfall however, in that (as I am at the moment) you can become overly reliant on references and struggle to draw from imagination. This is something I am working on, but don't let it scare you from using references at all, as they make a huge improvement to your work.

2. Try to break things down into simple shapes

This can be easily forgotten, especially if you use references. It is very tempting to 'free draw' what your brain thinks its sees, and it leads to pictures that while they look close to a copy, small mistakes are easy to make (such as not measuring things so proportions are off, or lines don't follow perspective, etc). This is something I have also focused on while drawing birds, and I am getting better compared to when I started.
One of my earlier birds, a kea, I 'free drew', so you can see things like inconsistent feather sizes and a lack of symmetry

This fish eagle I did more recently, and you can see how much more even and consistent the feathers are as I broke it down into shapes first!

I remember when first looking up online tutorials I was often met with the 'shaded sphere' and got quite irritated as it didn't really seem to show me what I wanted to learn. However, this fundamental applies to all art, as if you can break something down into geometric shapes, you understand planes, and understanding this lets you know how to shade.

As simple as this looks, using this as a basis really helps make drawings look more realistic!

Doing this also helps to let you rotate images in your head and draw from alternative perspectives (which helps against the over reliance on references). I am not quite able to do this yet but it is something I am working on!

3. Choose your lights source before applying colour

Possibly one of the biggest fundamentals that I (and many others) ignored! It sounds ridiculous I know, but when you're in the element of colouring you do 'what looks nice', not what is physically possible. Another reason for inconsistent light source also shows up in 'detail pride'- if you do extra detail on a part of a picture that's in shadow, in reality that detail won't show so much as there's not enough light to highlight it.

This rather complex fanart of Leliana shows light reflecting off areas that should be in shadow, because chainmail sparkles dammit!

But come on, you spent so long on that armour, it's too good to make it all dark! So you add light where there isn't any, and it leads to the picture just looking 'wrong'. I also have a tendency to use the same light source (top left casting down), so I do need to branch out and try other sources.

So pick a light source at the start- draw it in if need be- and let it guide you. Sycra has some great tutorials for this so I highly recommend taking a look.

4. Make a background BEFORE starting to colour

This is something I've kinda just picked up. It's almost a running joke in the non professional art community about backgrounds being the weakest part of the image, as most of us hate doing backgrounds and just want to focus on the image. Detailed backgrounds can be tedious and take away from the enjoyment, so often it's left by the our detriment!

This Indian Robin looks not a part of the background as it is just a blurred photograph and I added it last

Usually, I would draw the lines for a picture, then colour it in, then slap dash a hasty background at the end. This however can make the colours look wrong, as different colours next to each other make the colour look different (check out this video by Marco Bucci who explains in more detail).

This silver pheasant looks much more part of the same image as I painted it first, which let me add some 'tinge' to the feathers to help it blend in

So, what I've now started to do is slap a few colour textures on the background first, usually in contrast to what I'm colouring, and THEN colour the main image. This makes the background and image sync together much better, and you can also choose better colour highlights to match.

5. Don't be afraid to trace to study

Okay, so obviously don't ever trace another's work or a reference and then claim it as your own (because that is plagiarism), but at the same time tracing can be a useful teaching tool. It lets you 'feel' the shape and flow of your subject, and that can be helpful when trying to replicate it on your own. Copying the 'masters' is also a known teaching exercise so you can see how certain effects were achieved.

It also helps to get the '3D' feel, so you can see for example how the brow bone sticks out on the face, or how the eye socket sinks in, so you can replicate the three dimensional planes on a 2D medium. This was something I learned from Istebrak's art channel on youtube.

So there you have five art tips I wish I knew earlier! I'm sure there are many many more- have you got any hints or tricks you wish you'd known sooner? Let me know!

Thursday, 4 July 2019

New Photography Page!

Just a quick update, I have added a 'Photography' page where you can now enjoy my new hobby, which is bird photography! 

I have been doing amateur photography for several years now, initially through simple point-and-click cameras, before I moved to my first DSLR, the Samsung NX1000 (pictured below), and more recently I have invested in a Canon 2000D DSLR which I have started to get to grips with!

My old Samsung (white) served faithfully, now it can rest as its older, newer, flashier sister takes over!

Even though smartphone cameras have come a long way, nothing can quite compare to the crisp, beautiful images you can get with a real camera, as I'm sure many hobbyists and professionals will agree!

So far the Canon is a fantastic camera, especially as it came with a 300mm zoom lens which has let me catch some great shots:

A small sample of my shots!

If you'd like to see more, please check out my instagram as I learn the tips and tricks of the trade!