Monday, December 16, 2013

Summer Greeting from Earth

Summer Greetings from Earth from Graham Smith on Vimeo.

It was such a gorgeous day, that I had to go outside and play with my camera between illustration assignments.

Shooting video with my low end, Canon DSLR is my new hobby, and I wanted to learn how to better use it. So, I walked up and down the street in front of my studio, trying to get things in focus, along with a decent exposure. My goals are usually that simple when I go out to shoot.

I needed a peg to hang all this wide open, hand held, flowers and trees footage on; that's when I thought all this might be from the POV of a spaceman, with all the curious close ups, shallow depth of field, and the tranquil pace. With that minor concept in place, here is 4:41 seconds of pure veg-out.  :)

Canon 650d (t4i). 50mm f1.8.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Undersea Chalk Mural

Release the Kraken - Chalk Drawings from Graham Smith on Vimeo.

Watch artist, Peter Han transform a black wall into an undersea world of sharks, jellyfish and octopus, by drawing with chalk, and paint markers, for BLVD63 Apartments.

The mural is on 5193 College Ave, on SDSU campus. If you are in San Diego, California, have a look!

Peter completed this mural in 5 hours, without referring to a sketch. He simply penciled the black tip sharks, yellowfin tuna, Humboldt squid, oar fish, angler fish and octopus with a quick outline, using a white colored pencil, then he went straight in with chalk. A friend from Cottonwood Arts, dropped off a brand new box of acrylic paint markers, so Peter used them, too, having never picked one up.

Understanding your subject is the key to drawing them well. Peter spends many days at the Birch Aquarium, and the San Diego Zoo, drawing these sea creatures from life, creating study after study, to learn exactly what they look like. All that extensive study informs his drawing, making it look "so easy".

When asked by an onlooker how he draws so well, Peter answered, "Practice, man. Practice." You can see him mouth those words at 1:03 in the video.

The chalk was spray fixed with matte fixative, in light layers, once the drawing was completed. Little flakes of chalk fell off from the force of the spray fix, so the drawing was secured, little by little. After a few good coats, the entire mural was sprayed with a clear coat of varnish, to preserve it as long as possible.

Film Process: I filmed the mural's creation process using my low end, Canon DSLR (T4i), the Canon 18-135mm STM, and the 55-200mm zoom lenses, the least expensive lenses Canon makes. iMovie was used to edit the footage together. I like to use the simplest set ups possible, carrying the 2 lenses, and tripod only, then filming by the seat of my pants.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mellody Hobson portrait

Mellody Hobson is president of Ariel, an investment firm that manages over $3 billion in assets, and is one of the largest African American-owned money management companies in the United States, AND she's the chairman of Dreamworks Animation, AND she just married George Lucas. Dang!

Portrait for Worth Magazine. AD Valerie Sebring. Pen and ink, on 140lb cold pressed watercolor paper.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Make Day of the Dead masks

the recycle of life from Graham Smith on Vimeo.

Learn how to make Day of the Dead tributes, by recycling cardboard with a bit of paint, a touch of ink, and a bunch of imagination in this short video, the recycle of life.

You'll need: cardboard, white paint, india ink, a wide brush, a smaller round brush, and something to cut cardboard with.

Discarded cardboard is reborn and given a new life through your imagination. The decorative tributes are enjoyed for a day, then burned, because life is short and precious, and sometimes we need to be reminded to appreciate things, then let them go. The recycle of life.

the recycle of life (teaser) from Graham Smith on Vimeo.

I'll be at the Oceanside Museum of Art helping Art After Dark party goers make recycled Day of the Dead masks, this Friday, November 1st. I'll be assisted by The Art Elephant, Miss Chantelle Lamoreaux. Stop by to say hi, have a drink, and let's make art together! See you on Friday!

Read about the Event.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Drawing a Haunted House

Haunted House for Boston Globe from Graham Smith on Vimeo.

Houses that are hundreds of years old must have at least a few ghost roaming around, thought the owner of this 350 year old shaker, so she called a number of psychics to discover the otherworldly forces floating about.

Art Director Ryan Huddle called me to illustrate this fun topic for the Boston Globe. It was fun to draw, and to bring this illustration to life using fall colors. So, I made a little video while I was working.

Haunted House for Boston Globe: Graham Smith

Haunted House (detail): Graham Smith

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How to Illustrate a War Story

Beer for Data - Illustration Process from Graham Smith on Vimeo.
"It was a dark time in a long, drawn-out war. Afghanistan was festering with resentment. The Pentagon brass were desperate. It was the kind of last-ditch moment when authorities start throwing an era’s weirdest ideas at its most hopeless bureaucratic mistakes."
Pacific Standard hired me to illustrate an article about the war in Afghanistan, and a bunch of "Burners" lead by Dr. David Warner, the called the Synergy Strike Force. They succeeded in trying to "hack the war", only miles from the treacherous Tora Bora Mountains, from the only bar in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

This story begins in Wartime Afghanistan, with a few smart guys building schools and installing solar generators. It ends with the burning of Koran's at Bagram Airforce base by US soldiers, and the riots that erupted afterwards.

Once stateside, the story is returns to another burning, a bittersweet ceremony where the Burning Man's Temple was razed, deep in Nevada's Black Rock desert. Goodbyes were said to those lost in the war.

Their story, by Brian Calvert is heroic and amazing. Read the Article.

Illustrating a reality based series about the war is a great responsibility, and a super fun project!

But where to start? How do you know what to draw? What is the illustration process?

Research: Illustrations are based on written descriptions from the article, and reference photos culled from the interwebs. It is helpful to research the objects in a reality based illustration. I read the manuscript and highlight the descriptive passages, then list all the objects to be illustrated, and Google them.

Ideas: Draw thumbnails: The goal is to put your thoughts on paper, and to generate ideas by letting facts, graphic themes, and subconscious ideas link from one little drawing to the next - evolving as they go. This is a really fun part of the process, where any idea, no matter what, gets drawn in a little box.

Edit: The best thumbnails are enlarged, and refined into bigger pencil sketches. They are reviewed by the art and editorial staff, and placed into temporary layouts to get a sense of how the illustrations will live inside the design.

Refine: Sketches are usually developed with anything handy, and fast. In this case, graphite. The rough pencil sketches are used as a guide for the more carefully done ink drawing.

Draw: On approval, the chosen sketch is redrawn with ink on a separate piece of translucent vellum or paper. A quill pen, and india ink are used to draw each illustration.

Finish: Color, and mono-printed textures are are added digitally in Photoshop, as is the final  resizing, and preparation for printing. The final print ready, Photoshop files are delivered via internet.

While I'm drawing, I'm also filming.

An iPhone camera captures time-lapse footage while attached to a overhead desk lamp. Between each drawing, I reposition my low end DSLR, (Canon T4i /650D) to film a different angle, setting the exposure, and depth of field, before resuming to draw. The footage is knocked together in iMovie.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Drawing the CEO of Audi

Drawing Scott Keogh from Graham Smith on Vimeo.

Scott Keogh, CEO Audi America. Worth Magazine. 
Art Director: Valerie Sebring. Illustrator: Graham Smith

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Blue Moon Brewery - Expressionist Collection Video

I stuffed a suitcase full of drawings, and art supplies, then flew to Denver to film a video for Blue Moon.

Blue Moon's wanted to showcase the label illustration process, and asked me to develop a storyboard for a 30 second video spot using the process art from the Expressionist Collection label illustrations.

Then,I was asked be the hand that draws the labels on screen! That's a total bucket list item, so I said yes right away.  It is exciting to be part of any production. Doubly so, working on both sides of the camera!

Below are some of the storyboards I photographed in my studio, and some behind the scenes photos of the shoot in  Denver - where they built a replica of my studio, and filled it with lights, and cameras. See the storyboards taped to the wall in one of the behind the scenes photos?

My actual brushes, pens and pencils were used in the spot, you can even see my Sketchbook (#30 and 32) peeking into frame. And yes, we used the original label illustrations, sketches and comps, too. I lugged it all across the Rocky Mountains in a giant orange suitcase.

Shooting a video spot sounds pretty fancy, but in actuality, I stood at a desk drawing beer labels for 10 hours, while a time lapse camera clicked away. Futuristic Films, the production company, used a Canon 5D for the time lapse sequences. The real time sequences, and product shot, were filmed with an Epic Red, by Director Bill Timmer.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sony Life Drawing Workshop - starts next week!

The Sony Life Drawing Workshop starts next week, and I'm proud to announce that super talented, guest artists, Dr Wei Xu, Jay Able, and Watanna Khammeroth, will be stopping by to share their favorite drawing techniques.

For the next 8 weeks, I'll sit and draw alongside the artists, trying my best to improve and inspire. After the workshop, we'll go out for some late night Japanese noodles.

The Workshop starts : Sept. 17th - Nov. 5th. Tuesday Nights from 6-9 pm. Contact me for more information.

This workshop is private, open only to artists and animators currently working at SCEA and SOE.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Drawing Petra Nĕmcová

Drawing Petra Nĕmcová from Graham Smith on Vimeo.

I illustrated the stunning Czech entrepreneur and model, Petra Nĕmcová for Worth magazine's 20 Questions interview. I setup my camera to film the drawing process, cranked up the studio sound system with some old time Ska, and sharpened up a blue pencil. It's time to draw a supermodel!

Take a peek inside the studio, while I get down to some drawing and filming.

The sketch phase is where all the real drawing is done, where the mistakes are made, then improved. The facial structure is figured out in this step, the dark areas are planned, and how the lines follow the planes of the subject's face are decided. The blue pencil gets a real workout in the sketch phase.

Ink: Inking is a performance, the pencil sketch is the rehearsal.

I like to follow the sketch closely to maintain the likeness, but a degree of spontaneity is required for the line to have life. There is a balance to be negotiated. So, with a strong underdrawing in place, I can free skate over the sketch, reinterpreting it in ink. That way, I don't have to figure out what things looks like, only how to finesse what's already in the sketch.

Interpretation is the key, not slavishly tracing. Inking is a balance between craft, and pure drawing.

Petra Nĕmcová was injured in Thailand during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and has since founded BE THE LIGHT, New York by Petra Nemcova a home decór lifestyle brand. 

Drawing: Petra's portrait was illustrated on Strathmore 140 lb cold press watercolor paper, using a Hunt's 513ef quill pen and india ink, and sketched on 80lb Strathmore drawing paper, using a General's Color-Tex Lt Blue pencil. 

Video: shot on iPhone 4S, and Canon 650D, with a 50mm f1.8 lens. I put it together in iMovie. Timelapse with Stop Motion Recorder. Music: Cut Manno by Prince Buster.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Figure drawing: Composition 101

Color pencil study - Graham Smith
Drawing from life forces the artist to distill their ideas quickly. There is always a time limit, and the artist must decide quickly what is important, and what they want to say about the figure with their drawing.

I think about placement on the page first - the composition of the drawing. And the most basic concern of composition is getting the figure to fit on the page. You know, without the feet running off the bottom of the page.

Whenever I see drawings, and the feet run off the bottom of the page, I know the artist is drawing from "the top, down", and not drawing "on purpose". The artist must consider the entire page, and the placement of the figure within it, to create a composition deliberately. And not accidently "end up" with whatever you get. "Ending up" with a drawing is not mastery over your craft.

Now that I think about it, my very first thought, when viewing the models pose, is "tall or wide"... which way shall the paper be oriented, for the best composition?

Color pencil over acrylic wash - Graham Smith

Second, after I've decided where I want the figure on the page, I draw a line straight down through the figure's center of gravity, from the top of the head, to the bottom of their feet. This represents the scale of the figure as a whole. As long as the figure is subdivided within that line, the figure will then fit on the page. 

Please consider the rule of thirds, or any other composition aesthetic when making the decision where to place this first line. Only fools rush in.

Sometimes this is called the gesture line, and includes information about the flow of the figure, too.

Other drawing methods create an "envelope", an outline that roughly represents the area of the page where the figure as a whole, will reside.

color pencil over acrylic wash

Third, I imagine a triangle between the head and the feet, making marks on the paper that represents their relative positions to each other. This insures everything will fit, and immediately indicates how solidly the figure will sit in the space, and how dynamic the pose is.

After those initial calculations, I begin to subdivide the gesture line, into proportions that match the figure, indicating the axis of the waist, shoulders, and knees.

These are my first thoughts, when figuring out how to fit the figure on the page, when drawing from life. 

Draw deliberately, with purpose, and place the figure exactly where you want it within your page. Do not just start drawing in the middle of the page, and "see what happens".

What do you think about when first drawing the figure?

2 minute warm ups. graphite stick.

2 minute blind contour warm up drawings
2 minute warm up studies, graphite

2 minute blind contour warm up drawing.

See More: Life Drawings.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"The Craftsmen Series" - Graham Smith

"The goal is to get your professional work and your personal work as close together as you can, to be happy." Graham Smith

I illustrate packaging for the Blue Moon Expressionist Collection - so, the crew from Complex Media dropped by to talk about craftsmanship, and the creative processes involved in creating the Blue Moon artwork.

Creating artwork for a national brand like Blue Moon is a collaborative process, where artists work together toward a common goal for the benefit of their client. Ideas and strategies to achieve those goals flow between many people, before the artist begins making all those ideas into one visual presentation.

To communicate many ideas quickly, the artist provides pencil sketches, so everyone on the team can see a concrete version of how the artist has decided to put all the ideas and strategies together, so they can deliver their input. This is a very social part of the process, where communicating between people is key.

Pencil sketches get revised and tweaked to match the overall plan, and eventually the artist is set loose to actually create the finished artwork - which, in my case is a many step process.

Agencies expect the artist to have the ability to edit every aspect of the work to meet the clients plans. And that's where the artists craftsmanship comes into play. A good craftsman will have understanding and control over all the aspects of the creative process. The art has to look good, but it also has to to created in such a way to be editable, on message, and most of all, on schedule.

I do many extra steps in creating artwork for a national brand, compared to the spontaneous nature of my personal work.

How does craftsmanship play a role in your work?

Pencil sketch: Blue Moon Rounder label

Final inking: Blue Moon Short Straw Farmhouse Red label

Final inking: Rounder label

Color proofs: Short Straw point of sale posters.

My desk at the end of a great project.

For the art nerds: Generals layout pencils, Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencil, tracing paper, quill pen 513ef nib, india ink, Strathmore drawing paper, Loew-Cornwell brush #8 round, flat 1 inch brush, and all the stuff you see in the photo above.

- G.
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