By Melissa Whitaker

Archive for the ‘Illustration’ Category

Reflections from an Inktober Survivor

Inktober Day 20 “Tread” by Melissa Whitaker
“Tread softly because you treat on my dreams.” ~ W.B. Yeats

There is no challenge more challenging than the challenge to improve yourself.

Inktober is an artistic challenge that I have been observing for the past several years and always thought that it looked FUN. If a challenge was FUN then it must not be much of a challenge. That was naive me on September 30, 2019. Inktober is as big of a challenge as doing an Ironman marathon.

October 1st I worked most of the day and came home about 4:00 in the afternoon excited to do a quick drawing for the prompt word “Ring”. All through the day, my mind was brainstorming on visual ideas. I try to stay away from the obvious or at least attempt to twist the obvious in some way that visually tells a story. A simple drawing of a ring just wasn’t going to do it for me. I had spent several days in September with my sister, who lost her husband last year who was the love of her life. (She used to say he was her prince with Froggy tendencies). This inspired me to start off Inktober with an ink illustration of a frog.

Ink illustration of a Frog with a diamond ring on his tongue that is tied in a knot.  The frog is trying to catch a fly while he sits in the middle of a crown
“The Tongue-Tied Proposal” by Melissa Whitaker

I called it “The Tongue-Tied Proposal”

This illustration took a few hours to complete. Nothing too strenuous but dinner was a frozen pizza night that night. I enjoyed playing with my inks again, it had been a while since I had done any ink work. I posted the image on Instagram and on Facebook and started thinking of the prompt word for Day 2, “Mindless.”

“Mindless” by Melissa Whitaker

A friend of mine tried to emphasize to me to keep the drawings simple. Streamline the detail. That is what I attempted the next day. Again I spent the day pondering what to do and how to keep it simple. Then I thought of a question mark and realized that Donald Trumps’ hair from the profile kind of dips down like the top of a question mark. When I started drawing I came to the red tie and it started to appear to me that it resembled an exclamation point. It seemed to me to be an appropriate answer to the word “Mindless.” After completion, I posted it to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Immediately I received a comment that “Art should not be Political.” Thus a debate started and what I thought was a creative interpretation of a word ended up in a brouhaha over art and politics. That’s what I get for keeping it simple 🙄

I’m not going to go into much detail about what artwork I did everyday if you want to see the whole months’ work visit my Instagram or Facebook page. For the first several days I spent quite a bit of time just thinking about ideas for each day’s word, but also dreading Day 12. That day was creeping up and the word was “Dragon.” I had never even attempted to draw a dragon before and the thought of having to do it scared me. The best dragons had a LOT of detail. Lots of scales and sharp teeth with magnificent wings. To accomplish that in a day I felt was going to be the day I failed the challenge. When Day 12 dawned I still had no idea what to do. The 12 days leading up to that day were spent on dreading the day, not how to conquer the day. Then I said to myself, “Keep it Simple, Stupid.” This Dragon that I feared needed to be made friendly and not so fearful. I remembered a stuffed Dragon that I had when I was a child. The dragon’s name was “Figment” and sat on my bed as a protector. There’s nothing to fear about Dragons the fear is in your head and minds are made to change. I started drawing circles and came up with a new figment.

The day I dreaded ended up being the day I LOVED. I fell in love with this dragon and her possible story. Other people seemed to love her just as much as I did and I started looking forward to each day’s challenge. That is until the half waypoint. Day 16.

“Wild”. I was exhausted and to the point of saying, “Really? I have to draw another one?” Maybe no one will notice if I skipped a day. I started off wanting to do the dragon again. A boy setting a cupcake on the ground to entice the dragon to be friends. I struggled with it and the more I struggled the more the hours ticked away. I had had a long day at work and I was exhausted. Inktober had taken a lot. I was not eating right and sometimes forgetting to eat or drink because I was in the creative zone in my head for 16 days. By 9:00 pm on Day 16, I was still struggling with “Wild” I had the boy and the cupcake, but I could not get the dragon positioned the way I wanted in a square Instagram sized picture. It wasn’t working. By 9:15 I was ready to give up. People would just have to accept the fact that I missed a day. Then I thought, “Keep it simple, Stupid.”

A boy drawing a magical circle with a stick to protect him from the wild beasts with glowing eyes watching him in the dark.
“Wild” Digital Illustration by Melissa Whitaker

I quickly changed the background to night time. (There are trees there and a forest path which may be hard to see depending on your current screen resolution). The boy needed to protect himself from the wild things lurking in the forest but all he had available was a stick because kids don’t keep salt in their back pockets to ward off evil spirits. A child, however, has a deep faith in magic and the power that it can create, so I had him draw a protective circle with a stick. There. It was simple and it was done and posted at 9:30 pm. I had made it past the halfway point of Inktober and realized that I could finish this just as long as I ate right I got some sleep. Time for a bowl of ice cream to celebrate.

I created a few more dragon pieces that week on Days 18, 19 and 25. I was truly enjoying her, but I still was having trouble sleeping. My mind was constantly running non-stop with ideas for Inktober so when Saturday, Day 26, came around I decided to do a serious piece and it was going to be the traditional way. Ink on paper. The word was “Dark.” I had made it this far and I several ideas in my head for the word Dark. I just could not decide on which one would be best. What is it about the dark that unnerves people? A person often feels alone in the dark and the people who have lost a loved one I believe feel that loss mostly at night when they are laying in bed and the other side is empty. That is what I wanted to portray in ink.

Ink illustration of  a man sleeping with a blanket of the night sky pulled over him.
ItInktober Day 26 “Dark” by Melissa Whitaker

It didn’t work. I sat on my bed working on it. Absorbed in watching the ink flow on the paper. I had a night sky appearing on a white background. I love working with a negative space of white, it makes the colors POP in my opinion. I was so absorbed that I did not notice someone come in and sit down on the bed while I was working. That is, not until the black ink dropped in the white space under the man’s left arm. Ugggghhhhhh. The utter catastrophe to an artist, but I said, “it’s ok, I can make this work.” I forced it. I kept working at it trying to make it work instead of accepting the fact that it didn’t work. What I should have done is left the black spot in the white space and let it speak for itself. It might have been a powerful image then, instead of a complete muddy mess. Artists don’t always get it right, we just normally don’t see the messed up pieces. It was Inktober though, so I had to post it to social media in order for it to count towards the challenge and I posted it grudgingly, then had a glass of wine. (OK, maybe 2 glasses).

Digital illustration of a fashion model wearing a flowing coat swirling with colors.
Inktober Day 27 “Coat” by Melissa Whitaker

Only 5 more to go. The next day I was still trying to get over Day 26 and the word was “Coat.” I went back to my foundation of fashion illustration and went to an obvious choice, a coat. It was simple and fun and enough to get my confidence back to finish out the next several days of the Inktober challenge. There is nothing like a bit of flair and color to put confidence in my stride. We all have moments where we feel we don’t measure up to other people’s expectations and when you don’t measure up to your own expectations it can be a bit disheartening. The important thing is to move forward and not stay in one spot because you are afraid you’re going to mess things up if you continue.

I final prompt word on October 31st was “Ripe.” I finished the challenge with a return to the Dragon that I had come to love. The thing I most feared came to be the one thing from the month that I hold most dear.

Digital Illustration of a dragon in a princess dress sitting on the ground and holding a bouquet of broccoli.  A large pile of dragon fruit is beside her
Inktober Day 31 “Ripe” Digital Illustration by Melissa Whitaker

This illustration sums up the whole month for me. Sometimes I feel like a misfit who doesn’t quite fit in with the other kind of Dragons, so I dress up as a princess and go trick or treating through life. Life can be beautiful and give a person a pile of beautiful, tasty dragonfruit, but then there is always that one ornery one who puts a bunch of broccoli in your trick or treat bag. The thing to remember is broccoli is good. It’s full of vitamin C and a strong antioxidant that protects the body from the wild things that may attack your health, so eat your broccoli and embrace the fears. They only make a person stronger in the end.

The Creation of a Concept Character

An artist is not paid for his labor, but for his vision. ~ James McNeill Whistler

A final glimpse at the Cast of Characters.
Cast of Characters for Free Agent Source by Melissa Whitaker

I want to take you on a journey of conceptual character art. It is a complex journey full of alterations and complete U-turns. It all began with a consultation with Steve Pruneau, CEO of Free Agent Source. He was interested in getting away from the Stock photo look on his website and wanted something that could be continued through with promotional and presentation material. Free Agent Sources’ business is comprised of people and the creative, knowledgeable, leadership skills that they supply. Their product is solutions to problems that are often encountered in the business world. They are the Heroes that sweep in and save the day. Through the consultation it was decided that the personality of the people and the company needed to be front and center.

Rough draft for Free Agent Source for their cast of characters.
Rough Draft for the “Orchestra” by Melissa Whitaker

We began with a list of characters and their skills. A Software Developer, Solutions Architect, Agile Coach, Database Administrator, Marketing Director, Trainer, System Engineer, and a Robotics Programmer. The concept of an orchestra being led by a conductor (aka. Visual Storyteller) became the foundation for this team of professionals. The process began.

A truly rough draft of the software developer.
Rough Draft of the Software Developer by Melissa Whitaker

In order to keep this post relatively short, we will stick with one character for now. The Software Developer. He’s the fourth guy from the left in the above photo. It is important to create a personality to a character. It is personality that gives a character life and makes them interesting. Each character must have a unique quality in order to support the future narrative. In the first draft he was a sloppy dresser in gym clothes eating a bag of chips. This guy I could have fun with. Free Agent Source said, “Let’s see where you go with this.” He’s interesting.

Now it was time to start having FUN. Time to color and make him come alive so the client could get a better visualization of him.

Digital color version of rough draft of the software developer.
2nd step in concept character design of Software Developer for Free Agent Source.
3rd draft of software developer
3rd revision of the Software Developer for Free Agent Source.

At this point Free Agent Source liked the character, but felt that he may be too casual. “What if we nixed the bag of chips and gave him a business jacket?” they replied.

I had to admit that they were right. We were moving in the right direction. Yes, the software may have been ‘all that and a bag of chips,’ but he was not ready for the business world. He was more ready for MLP gaming than developing software.

After much discussion we decided that this character needed to be a bit more Saavy with a little bit of swagger.

4th revision of software developer
4th revision of the Software Developer

A little more detailing and shedding of clothes he began to look a little more business like, but he still wasn’t right.

While working on the characters for the “Orchestra” I also created some more vignette type of characters for their website. These solo characters were done in a Noir style with a slight pop of color and we thought the rest of the characters should be cohesive with the entire look. The feel was a bit more edgy. It was also decided that it would be best if there was no design on the t-shirt.

5th revision of the software developer.
5th Revision of Software Developer

I can be a bit persistent at times when it comes to my vision. If I had to do away with the t-shirt design then I had to put some FUN somewhere else on the character, so I changed the footwear to Converse style shoes. Still he was considered a bit too casual and there was one final change to the software developer.

Final digital illustration of the Software Developer.
The Final Software Developer

In the final revision the pants were turned into trousers, shoes became dress shoes, (but I still had to add my little bit of fun and quirkiness), a striped scarf with a nod to Dr. Who.

Most of the cast members did not take this many revisions, but it is imperative that the characters work for the client and the company. With thorough collaboration with Free Agent Source, characters were created that can be used for multiple uses and a continuing story line to explain about their company. This could not have been achieved with the typical stock photos that are often used for company websites. The characters and artwork create a brand, a connection, and a reason for customers to keep checking back with Free Agent Source to see what may be coming up next. What is the rest of their story?

The evolution of a conceptual character for Free Agent Source.
The evolution of the Software Developer

Take a look at www.freeagentsource.com

The Art of Photo…….shop?

“I believe in someway that Photoshop is the contemporary darkroom, the creative area that all photographers have available.” ~ Douglas Kirkland

A man who had the privilege of photographing Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot.

It has been almost a year since I wrote a post about photography as Art and I find myself having to argue the point again, except this time it is the Photoshop is art and not photography debate. Is using Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom to process photos really any different from the chemical processing in Darkrooms of the past? I don’t think so. It is the evolution of photography in the 21st century.

The basics of taking a photograph have not changed much over the years. It is mostly digital instead of film, but the overall shooting of a picture has stayed the same. A photographer must still set aperture, ISO, and shutter speed in order to capture the vision of what they see. They still have to adjust for lighting, frame the shot and seek out the best composition. That in it self is an art form. Photoshop is only another tool in the photographer/artists toolbox. It has replaced the darkroom.

I missed out on learning how to develop photos in a darkroom. (My basic design instructor in college cornered me in the darkroom during my second lesson and I never went back). However, I did learn the basic instruction and purposes of development of film. With the use of time, chemicals and light exposure a person could manipulate a photo. With the use of a paint brush, airbrush, or pen they could retouch photos to enhance or diminish areas of the picture. Truly not much difference from todays digital processing, just a longer turn over time.

Girl holding thistles.
“Bravery” Digital Photo by Melissa Whitaker © 2019

The photo “Bravery” is one that I took this week of my niece for her Senior pictures. Before I met with her, I went out and picked the thistles specifically for this shot. It was planned out the same way that an artist sets up a model or a still life for a composition. The camera settings were 1/200 sec., f 3.5, ISO 100 on a 85 mm lens with no filter or flash.

I shoot everything in RAW, because once you go RAW there is no going back. A RAW file is basically the digital equivalent of a film negative. It captures all the image data taken by the camera and allows for the photographer to post process the image in order to achieve their vision/interpretation of their view. It also allows for a higher quality image after processing.

Screenshot of "Bravery" Before and After Lightroom/Photoshop processing
“Bravery” Before and After Lightroom/Photoshop Processing

As you can tell from the Before and After image, the RAW file is dull and flat. This is because the camera has not processed the image yet. Shooting in JPEG format compresses the image and the camera processes it for you based on what it has interpreted the captured view to be. I personally do not like objects or people deciding on what I see or think, so I will continue to shoot RAW.

I post most of my images on Facebook and I continuously have people asking me what kind of camera do I use and why is it that their pictures of the sunset or people do not have the same intensity. It’s not the camera folks. It’s the way the camera is used and the way the image is processed.

Now back to the original argument. Is Photoshop Art and NOT Photography? Photoshop is both. It’s all in how you use it. If a person is using it Photoshop/Lightroom for post processing of images it is photography. It’s the same as developing film in a darkroom (only the room is not dark and there are less hands involved 😏). Retouching blemishes on a beautiful teenagers face in Photoshop, it’s the same as airbrushing a photo in the 1890’s. There is an art to it, but times really haven’t changed that much. Vanity is still alive and thriving. One of the advantages of Photoshop is it does allow for imagination to run wild and creativeness to explode. An artist can take a photograph and manipulate it to create a fantasy world, or to enhance an already existing one. Marketers can use it to manipulate the public to believe in their ideas of beauty. Photoshop is just a tool in an Artists/Photographers toolbox.

As an artist I use photography to help with my artwork. It often inspires me and gets my creative energy flowing. It helps me create my interpretation of the world I see around me.

This illustration is what I had pictured in my mind when I pricked my fingers while picking thistles for the photo.

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