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Commissions Open

I would very much like to challenge myself and do more diverse work by creating images of other people’s characters. I would also like to cover the rest of my bills this month since I didn’t get all the hours needed at work.  So I’m doing commissions.

$5 Portraits

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These are headshots, meaning from the shoulders up. I will draw your own original characters, fanart, or draw you or friends as a character.

$10 Full Chibi Characters

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I’m also happy to draw in a chibi style. Full-body OCs, fanart, or make yourself or a friend chibi.

$20 Full Character Lineart

Same as the other two, but this time full body characters.

Payments through paypal only.

You can contact me by email at ajryan04@gmail.com with the subject line stating which commission you would like: Portrait commission, chibi commission, or character commission.


Of course, if you don’t want a commission or can’t afford one, you can always buy me a coffee. Every bit is very much appreciated. ❤

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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Posted in in my toolbox, Uncategorized

In my Toolbox: Audiobooks

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By Brett Sayles

When it comes to artwork or a particular project, I like to place it under the category “On my Desk.” Today I want to introduce a new category called “In my Toolbox.” These posts will be about the different tools I use in my journey as a writer, artist, etc. I will strive to ensure they also contribute to more than just the obvious task. Hopefully, the following explanation will make this clear.

Let’s talk about Audiobooks. Until recently, I couldn’t get my head around audiobooks as much as I wanted. Sure, they were good if you had long journeys and the like. Personally, I could only bear to take up listening to non-fiction books. They were like listening to radio shows for me, which I am far more receptive to than delving into a world of fiction someone is telling me. As you may know, I love radio shows. However, I have artist friends who work while listening to audiobooks. Since I have some big art projects on hand, I thought it would be useful to try out. My hope was that it would keep my butt in the chair without distraction for longer periods of time.

The jury is still out on its effectiveness in that area. I enjoyed the stories far more if I was lounging, or if I was in my car driving from store to store. However, it’s only been 2 stories, so I feel like I need to give audiobooks more of a chance before making any judgment in this area.

On the other hand, I have found audiobooks surprisingly helpful in an area that never crossed my mind: Public reading. When it came to reading my work in public, I was initially confident. All things considered, I think of myself as a good presenter/speaker. Furthermore, I’m known to be a good reader of anyone else’s works, ie. Poetry, short stories, the bible… So sharing my own work should have been a cinch! You can probably guess from this set-up, it was not.

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Alas, having to read my own story aloud suddenly forced me to get very close to it, and it to me. It was like we were hugging tightly, which would lead me toward building up self-consciousness. Your tales are always going to be personal in some form or another. They are made up of what entertains you, scares you, interests you, or anything that moves you. Presenting your stories aloud is like shining a giant light into yourself. Your mind is open like the skull of Zeus, waiting to see if a newly powerful god should leap forth, or a less than favorable spirit should break out. So it’s easy to get pulled under by all the worries about reactions to your reading. What will they think of you? Will they disapprove of the lines of thought you have followed? Will they laugh? Or worse, what if they don’t get it at all?

However, I advise that we all take a step back. Like the pain that led to Zeus’s head being split open, we too are under the force of great pressure. As writers, the creative energy builds up inside, and if we do not let it out into the world, the result is not pretty. Namely, frustrated, moody, unfulfilled lumps are the result of a creative who will not or cannot create. I truly feel for those who are held back. We all have that form of Athena within. It’s always better to let her out. ‘Cause let’s be honest, she was pretty kickass compared to all the rest, including Zeus.

As for any labels folks will attribute to you for your stories and the depths you might explore through them, weird, wonderful, or foolish as they may be, we would all do best not to give such anxieties much ground. After all, it’s not you. All works hold a part of you, but they are not you. Heck! How many memoirs are completely transparent? Anyone who is going to extrapolate a work of fiction onto you as a person and use it as some magnifying glass upon you is being a bit lazy. A touch of critical theory goes a long way. Any author will tell you that. It tends to come easily to dedicated creators.

With that out of the way, let’s move along. What has helped me the most with reading my works publicly? Audiobooks. This was entirely unexpected. As stated before, I picked up audiobooks to try while I was illustrating. I know other artists who listen to them while they work. Plus, I know lots of fellow writers who shore up gaps in their creative bank accounts (or inspiration) by listening to audiobooks in their spare/chore time.

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I started with Neil Gaiman’s “The Sleeper and the Spindle.” That one was a hit! I listened to it twice. Then I moved on to Steven Pressfield’s The Afghan Campaign. I found it likable.  But I found so much more than just an enjoyable story. I discovered a secret benefit. When I was prepping on the day I was going to read aloud to strangers and friends, I found that I could hear the narrators from the audiobooks in my head. Memory brought me back to an admiration of their eloquence, their flow of voice, and their characterization through sound. And I wanted to emulate that. I imagined reading my work with that same approach, lending eloquence, flow, and characterization through sound. I imagined it being professional and seriously done. Doing so gave me more objectivity. It also gave me license to believe in the work itself. All of which was stupendously helpful in reading over 1,000 words aloud to a table of folks.

If you’re a writer, but the thought of readings makes you shudder or crumple up in defense, try stretching out on the couch and enjoying an audiobook or two. You’ll quickly find yourself absorbed by the voice actor, and picking up on their own approach. The next time you read through your work, I bet you’ll start hearing a more professional voice in your head. Harness that, and take it to the fans!

I hope this was helpful. If you try this out and want to share your experience, you can contact me or comment here. I’d love to hear your take on it!


I also want to make a small announcement regarding categories. The time has come! I will be raking through my blog posts to begin organizing categories such as “In my Toolbox,” “On my Desk,” and other topics like music to write to/reviews, advice for artists, etc. I’ll lay them out for everyone when they’re done.

Furthermore, I’m rolling out my Ko-Fi page. If you like what I do and have some spare change to throw my way, it would be abundantly helpful. I’m still creating content with no strings attached. I want to help however I can. But I am working to someday support myself through the work I love. Please, help the dream if you can.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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Color Training and Epic Score

Two and a half weeks since Sci-Fi! Phew. I rolled the energy into a quick special order project for Cork Board Pens. It proved to be another scary first-time learning experience for me. This company has constantly pushed me from the beginning. It’s hard but rewarding. At the same time, I was revving the creative engines and working more on writing my sci-fi book submission as well as preparing some illustrations for a project I’m hoping to get hired onto.
While I went on a day trip driving through the communities around the bay, we stopped into some lovely shops. At one I found some cool and affordable coloring books. This one has individual sheets, which then gave me the chance to easily work in marker! So I had fun working on this piece. Furthermore, I actually feel like I did a good job on it.

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While working on my Military Sci-Fi book I found a new orchestral band called Epic Score (See their awesome website here). A quick search and I discovered that it is a part of a genre called Epic Music. Just by looking at those who contribute to it, I can say that I am clearly a lover and a fan of Epic Music. I follow most of the composers! I have recognized some of the songs by Epic Score from trailers, but nothing stands out too much, which is spectacular for writing without distraction. That is actually the whole idea behind the music. It was once relegated to the back seat as merely trailer music. No one thought it would be of any interest to consumers in the public rather than being a tool of another industry. Turns out, the industry was wrong and this genre is booming!

Let’s take a look at reasons why that may be. These are a few of the reasons I see:
1 They have a massive library of albums to choose from.

On Spotify, I counted at least 29 albums available to listen to for Epic Score.
2 The artwork included on their albums and videos is very cool and equally inspiring.

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Image from Trailer Music News. (link)

3 Music and Fiction. Writers are more likely to take on music that has no lyrics to assist with their writing.

 

While I sometimes need lyrical diction to bolster my inspiration, motivation and flow, I know a lot of other writers who find it distracting. They prefer music without lyrics, and often it even has to fit the mood of the scene they are working on. Epic Score’s albums are actually titled in a way that makes it easy to find what you need.
4 Crossroads.

This music has been called modern classical as well as neoclassical. It resides at the crossroads between some of the origins of music, that which resonates in our souls, and the fresh face of innovative and popular culture’s sound.
5 We judge books by their covers and scores by their names.

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Image from Behind the Audio (link)

The holy grail of inspiration. Great music, great art, and great words. Each album can take you through a story with the names and the flow of each song. How can you not love it?
6 Bring your own imagination to it.

The unique format allows you to write your own story to each album and each song. You’re not herded by any words, let alone any specific images.

That’s it for today. I’ve been prepping for a return proper return to my drafting table. I started the other day. I have some serious work to do for a client and I’m stoked! I hope to show you bits and pieces soon. Perhaps I’ll even get to start some daily warm-ups.

By the way, share with me your Epic Music favs! Or other composers you find helpful. As always, I’m looking to expand my collection.

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Pieced Together NL Process Pt. 2

Here’s the second part of my process creating Marth for the Pieced Together Collab. This time it’s about color!

When I went to art school, I always felt (and said) that I was no good at color. That may have been true somewhere along the line. However, that didn’t mean I couldn’t work on it and increase my skill. I think we all have felt taken in or overwhelmed by someone’s use of color before. Also, to be honest, I was new. No one can’t learn everything at once. I had to take it all in steps, and that meant the basics of line came first. Line became a large fascination for longer than expected too.

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So for Marth, I started just throwing down color with my old method. Building up sections with a new layer for each part (when I remembered). But then I took a step back and meditated on what I wanted to achieve. I really wanted to push myself to be proud of this work. So often, in school, I felt bad for not pushing myself enough–for letting fear hold me back. I hardly ever felt as though I’d given it my all. Now I know that the most growth comes from mistakes.

The digital realm is full of magic when it comes to treatments of color. Right down to how one chooses to place the paint or create finishes, there are countless options. One of my best friends in college was a practitioner of Art Nouveau, after the great Alphonse Mucha. Basically, think bold linework, and smooth painted color inside that can almost dance. See, a lot of painters normally blend out the linework. Christine’s influence remains with me to this day. If you have some time, check out her work on facebook or at her website. My other influences would be Lois van Baarle (loish), Linda Luksic Sejic, and most of all, Stjepan Sejic. I’ve learned a lot studying their videos.

However, I was ready to try something else. A way to work smarter and learn the steps. I’ve become a fan of Jazza over the last year. I also wanted to get the clipping mask method down path. I’d only made a mess of it before. So I checked out his process video and gained a proper understanding of what to do. I created a bunch of groups and a ton of coloring layers–always set to Multiply.  Marth-05-Color

So I can thank Jazza for these fabulous outfit color choices. All of those bright colors are so I can quickly tell if I missed a spot when I lay down the actual color. Simple, yet brilliant. For the small amount of time setting up the method, it saved me a lot more time I would have spent noodling around, not to mention worrying! You can also see I’ve placed my base palette colors near each section. I made a separate layer for the palette.

Another fun and awesome thing about digital is that it helps you with your color palette choices. If you see an image out there and like the color choices and lighting colors, you can color prick from it and put it into your own paintings. This goes a long way in helping you learn to use colors. It can be overwhelming to have to invent everything on your own. In the end, since Marth’s palette is already established in the series, I chose a few character images to sample as my base colors.

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Above you can see that I’ve gotten down most of the base color with mild blending. In fact, most of the base color is blended out into shadow. I use the blending tool a lot, like Stjepan does, and adjust levels as needed. As for my brushes, I used the basic circle brush that has pressure sensitivity for sizing. The harder I press, the thicker the line. Plus, the basic brush. Nothing fancy at all. What I do, instead, is that once the base color is down, I paint in shadows by dropping the opacity and flow down between 8-20%. By doing this, I can build up the paint. I might blend a little, but this method kind of has built-in blending.

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I knew what I wanted to do with the lighting, and how I was going to use one of Marth’s powers in the image. Don’t go into lighting blind. It’s too frustrating. If you have to, make a template so you know where to go with your colors and highlights. I’ve always had a good eye and a knack for the figure. So I’m fairly used to interpreting light bending over a person, thus, I was able to plan most of it as I went.

At this stage, I also tried to pay attention to the materials that his garments are made of. Being sure to represent his boots as leathery, the sheath as stiff with materials added over time, the glove as a stretchy fabric with stitching, and the ever important metallic nature of his armor. For instance, think of a pair of your own boots or shoes. They’re never pristine, and you wouldn’t want them to be brand new when you need to work with them on. They gain creases and have color change where they bend most. So I interpreted this into the boot in the foreground. Especially with the creases and bends, it gains in the ankle. I also began to create the embellishments on his clothes. On his boots, the edges of his armor, and then on the sheath for his sword.

I also gave some texture to his hair with a simple hair brush I got along the way. My advice is to gather as many different brushes as you can and find which ones you like best. Their versatility for use in different directional strokes, as well as realistic representation, are what matter most. Building brushes or learning to adjust/edit them over time is incredibly useful as well. I took some fancy brushes and on new layers pulled pieces off them, and built up variations to then stamp onto the armor and boots. I was careful to mask them so that I could add light and shadow paint on top after.

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I finished building the embellishments into his sword sheath as well as making adjustments to his skin lighting, blending to show better form. Then I grabbed another custom brush to try constructing his power-up. A couple dabs with the brush and it was actually perfect. I love when it works out better than planned!

Another note on creating lighting. When I have the basics down and the lighter color thrown on and blended, I change my method for highlights. Again, credit goes to Stjepan. I change my brush function to soft light. Shift the color to a much lighter version of the original, always at the top of the palette, and turn down the opacity and flow to 10 or so. Soft light is a powerful function and can easily blow up and appear useless. But if you take your time and slowly build it up, you can see the highlight growing and shifting in luminosity. This is how I built all the rim lighting, shine, and highlight throughout.

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I didn’t realize I had to create the background as well, but that was a quick addition after the fact. Some toying with the gradient tool gave me the desired effect similar to the game stage itself without swallowing up Marth and his passion for a blue color palette. And that’s the final piece above with my hidden signature included.

I hope these process posts have been helpful. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment here or to contact me. I’m on facebook, twitter, and email a lot. You can also find me on instagram every over day. I can truly say that I am proud of this illustration. It was challenging, meditative, and a lot of fun to create. I’m so pleased to have been a part of the project, and I hope to get to meet all the artists.

Check out all the art and artists as well as the final work at Pieced Together NL’s facebook here.

Or on instagram here.

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Pieced Together NL Process Pt. 1

I thought it would be nice to go through the process that led up to my final piece in this collaboration.

First was choosing from the characters available. I like armor and knights. So I chose Marth. I’m a gamer, but I have never owned a Smash Bros game or played it much since the very first one. Only recently did I really know that Marth was from Fire Emblem. Shout out to Smashley for getting me interested.

So my initial step was to get acquainted with the character. I studied different pictures and versions of Marth and did some doodles which you can see above.

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But I didn’t like how my doodles were coming out. I didn’t like the intense anime that made Marth look too effeminate. I don’t have a problem with a feminine looking character, regardless of their gender. However, I didn’t want to bring a simple copy to the table. That’s not what I like in a fanart. I buy art because of the artist’s style and interpretation and this anime style just wasn’t me anymore. So, being true to myself I realized I should approach the character drawing the same way I start my own characters. Not shown here is the idea of picking a head shape, and basic forms in an almost cartoon method. I like to break it down in the way I was shown by my teachers who encouraged that type of viewing and construction to help me learn and move forward as an artist who was previously clueless.

IMG_20180309_0004 The next step, shown above, was to come up with the pose. Initially, when I chose my tile in the background, I was going to play with that moment when a character is K.O.ed and flying off the edge of the screen. This created another problem, though. It might work in the full picture, but it wasn’t going to stand out or even make sense as a single print on its own (which was my misinterpretation at the time. I still want the single image to use for my own stuff). So now I saw that it would have to be a character feature piece, like a poster. So I watched gameplay videos with the character and familiarized myself with his moves, motions, and powers. Then I drew out thumbnails for poses, thinking through what would fulfill the needs for the unique use of the image. As you scroll down the images, I think it’s clear to see my transforming thoughts.

The pose I decided on seemed powerful, interesting, and held a pretty good silhouette. Then came drawing out the construction sketch. See below.

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I purposely left out the facial features and hair. I was intent on adhering to some of the best advice I’ve been told by the numerous teachers from my college life and beyond into podcasts. The advice goes like this:

Work from the general to the specific.

Getting bogged down noodling on a small spot isn’t going to advance the piece. In fact, all that detail work will likely get swallowed up and overlooked by the audience in the end. That goes directly against another golden rule, or piece of advice, which is:

Work smarter, not harder.

As a freelance illustrator, I am working commercially. Therefore, time matters. You have to be smart with your choices, and how you create certain aspects. The overall image matters more than the tiniest of details, especially when designing.

You can also see that I changed the idea of the silhouette to show more of the character, and make him more dynamic and visually interesting. Again, thanks to the golden rules of my personal process.

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Next, I took my construction onto my lightbox and filled in some detail and thoughts. Then it was on to the scanner and into photoshop. There I began adjusting and completing the rest of the underdrawing. Hence the two colors seen above. Animation blue and red!

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Initial lineart came next. Digital tools are great because you can flip the image back and forth to ensure it is balanced and that the anatomy is correct. As an artist, you can get so used to seeing your work, that it looks fine. But anyone in the audience might feel off about it, but not know why. It’s the anatomy and the balance. You can avoid a lot of that frustration by flipping the image. It looks perfect one way, but then you flip it and the odd parts stick right out. A mirror image is new enough that your brain absorbs it as a brand new image, not the one you’ve been staring at for hours already and have memorized. Speaking of mirror images, you can do this with your traditional art by using a mirror. Hold your image up to a mirror and the same will become apparent. If you’re really in a bind, hold your work up to a light and look at it from the back. I feel that digital tools are the easiest way to take advantage of this phenomena.

As for the lines. I know this doesn’t have to be the final image. I know what’s needed to polish it in the end. So to get past the nerves, I just throw down my lines to get started. I’m still thinking through problems as I go.

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A few versions later, I’m beginning to tidy up the lines. I’ve also cut pieces and adjusted the sizing, making the head fit properly for the size of the limbs and issues like that. I am still problem-solving the cape as well. You can also see that I’ve decided to go with different costume parts. The tails of his tabard were messing with the silhouette and became too cumbersome, taking away from the effectiveness of the image.

The boots also came off as ridiculously overstyled. Not so much for the style of his genre, but for my style, which is a little more western by influence, it was. The wrapped material and the metal plate over the arch of his feet was just going to confuse a viewer. We see humanoids and we want to look at the face. All that detail on the boots was a distraction. In my mind, delicate embellishments could achieve just as much for what I wanted to convey.

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And here’s the final lineart. Some adjustments were made in the next process of coloring, but this is mostly it. That’s it for today. Next time I’ll go through some of the steps of the painting process to add color to get to the final image.

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Back to my Desk

I am many things. Editor. Writer. Scholar. Transcriber. Entrepreneur. Gamer. Teacher. Illustrator. Etc. Which is why I often like to call myself a Creative. That’s the umbrella I try to use. But today, I’m going to choose one section of the umbrella to focus on. One I haven’t focused on here in a while.

Often times I have felt unprepared, or too unrefined to work on projects with other artists. So I burrowed away. I didn’t finish things. I even floundered. My first time, my coming out as an artist when I shouted I’m an illustrator, wasn’t the greatest. I was young. I was fresh out of college. It was a bit of a bomb and a loss of money. But I don’t regret it. I’m glad I tried it. It pushed me to continue and to believe that with time and age I would reach new levels. The other thing I didn’t do was stop. I never stopped working on my craft. I might have only been doodling, watching hours of artists talking and working, reading about the history and craft of those before me, doodling some more and then trying different mediums.

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The only thing that has truly gone against me by burrowing away is that I now get very nervous when sharing my work. It’s likely a reaction related to my crash through depression and anxiety as well. Even though it’s scary, and to the top stressful to share, I’m beginning to step back out there. I’m learning to face it and go forward with that nervousness clinging to my back, and work anyway.  The words of a great artist, Aliki Theofilopoulos Grafft, come with me as well. She said if she gets scared by something, she then has to do it.

Scared by a superstar standing in front of you? Then that means you better walk straight up there and introduce yourself!

I don’t exactly do that. But I keep her words with me as a reminder. I often gain a little push from them as well. They tell me it’s okay to be nervous, anxious, and to worry, but that it also doesn’t have to stop me.

So here it is.

I completed an illustration project. One I’m very happy to be a part of. It’s called Pieced Together. 24 artists doing 24 characters from Super Smash Bros. Sales will be at the Sci-Fi on the Rock Convention in April. The large piece with everyone’s illustrations put together will be auctioned off. There will also be limited prints of the separate characters for purchase.

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I won’t be showing my final piece yet. Every day, leading up to the release/meet-and-greet event, one of the 24 artists will be featured and their work revealed on instagram: here and on the facebook page: here.

However, I have included some of my initial thumbnails here. My next post will be the process doodles with some explanation.

P.S. Aliki Grafft was interviewed on the Paper Wings Podcast. She explains her reactions to fear and how it has propelled her forward. Click here to listen.

2 corrections. The full piece will have tickets sold on it. Which means everyone has a good chance of winning it! Woohoo!
Secondly, the prints will be smaller versions of the full piece.