Every picture tells a story - ATCs
Firstly let us start with a simple character. This is a Bokiboky. Also known as a "Narrow Striped Mongoose", but I like his Malagasy name better. Let's call him Boki.
Cute, isn't he? But not very inspiring! He'd look pretty dull on a card. Lets liven him up a bit!
Firstly, before we colour her in, lets have a look at her eye. The eyes are very important, one of the first things you notice when you look at a picture is the eyes. So lets try a few variants on those:
You can see here how simply moving the pupil can have quite an effect on the overall nature of the picture.
A: pupil upwards - Boki is daydreaming
B: pupil forward - he's spotted something in the grass
C: pupil back (at viewer) - oops, looks like you're making him nervous!
D: pupil in center - blah, very little personality.
To continue I have chosen to go with "B". You will notice, however, that many of my pictures actually are "C".
Now we've added some colour, Boki looks much happier. I've also cut him out and placed him on a piece of ATC sized card I have lying around:
But oh boy, is this boring or what? Admittedly, if I were making this not as a demo, I would likely have printed Boki bigger and made the card in landscape format - but I have chosen portrait in this case because I wish to concentrate on how backgrounds effect the picture.
Boki needs some habitat! So what are our options here?
Mono Coloured I could simply place her on a coloured piece of paper. This is what it would look like;
It works (see how much better a simple border makes it?) and would be completely fine, if a little dull, if Boki took up most of the card. But since he's so small, he really needs something else.
Collage: I could make a background using layered paper. This is something I have done on many occasions, using differently coloured pieces of paper trimmed or punched to shape to create grass and trees.
You can see an example of that here.
Watercolour: I could get out my watercolour pad and work out a piece on that using my pencils and a dash of water.
You can see an example of that here.
Illustration Background: Or I could use my colouring pencils and marker pens to devise a proper background for him.
Let's do this one!
So how do we do this?
Well, firstly, where do bokiboky live? I'll look it up in my "Mammals of Madagascar" book by Nick Garbutt.
"The Narrow striped mongoose has a very restricted distribution in western Madagascar... found in seasonal dry forests ... a few specimens collected in Didieraeceae and Euphorbiaceae thickets..."|
So let's have our Boki live in the spiny forests. They're always fun to draw!
So now we take our little cut out Boki (I keep him in his sleeve when not using him, so he doesn't run away) and I take up my sketchbook. First thing to do is draw the outline of the ATC. I have used for my template this time an ordinary playing card. These are slightly smaller than the regular ATC size, and the Pokemon cards I usually use, but I am doing this because I want the backing card to form a border about my image.It's amazing what a difference a border can make to the overall impression.
I place Boky on the part of the card I want him to sit on, and trace around his outline. I then put him safely back into his sleeve.
Now using that for a reference, it's time to start sketching that background. Be back with you soon!
Remember when drawing your background, you can always take out your little character card and try it for size. Don't be afraid to move it from the original point - just remember to print lightly when you trace his outline, or it might be visible in your completed piece.
Here's the lineart (with little Boki in place):
Now I would like to talk about "flow". Flow is the way the eye works when looking at the picture - and the idea is to keep the viewer within the picture and not have their gaze shooting off the sides. Here is how I have achieved it:
framing: You will notice that the spiny branches up the top form a natural curve, cutting off the top left hand corner and keeping the viewer within the scene, the spindly tree to the right also aids in this and the tree curving up from the centre also acts as a frame to the picture.
Here's an example of a background not showing flow:
And now it's coloured:
But oh no! Boki is destroying the flow! He's staring OFF THE PAGE! The viewer will follow his line of sight and find themselves wandering off into the void.
So how can we fix this?
We have to define what it is that has caught his attention. Now, I know a lot of you look down on "sticker cards" but stickers can make effective embellishments. It's either that, or I draw a very, very small butterfly. Unfortunately, I don't have any stickers on hand in the right posture and size, so I had to chop a wing off one of them. I'm such a sadist!
Also, did you notice the dead space in the top left hand corner? Lets add another sticker there. OF course, there's more dead space in the bottom left, but we don't want to go overboard, do we just? And at least this way the shiny sticker inthe top left balances with the shiny sticker towards the bottom right.I have also outlined the butterflies with a very fine black pen just so they match the rest of the illustration.
And voila! We're done!
Now, want to try one yourself? Have some lineart! (Just right click and "save as" to store on your harddrive: