Dec 29, 2012

Ipad artrage experiments

 Here are six paintings done with Artrage on the ipad.  It's fine for doodling or doing color experiments but it's really hard to get fine details.  The first one with the girl and crab sleeping was something I repainted on my home workstation using a proper wacom tablet and I achieved a result I was happy with (you can see that version two posts down).

The others are all experiments that explore the subject matter of the story.  Barnacles and seaweed, pink anemones in a ravine of seaweed, swirly sandstone, a tunnel with light filtering in from the end, and a contraption made of blocks.

Dec 16, 2012

Oils again

Another take on using digital oil painting tools.  I'm really starting to like this blend of pencils on top of oil painting.  Feels a little like a still from an animation, which isn't a bad thing.  I think the general color I used here for the sandstone beach works pretty well and contrasts against the sky enough.  Sandstone in real life is quite grey but I think keeping warmer tones on the ground will help.

I'm also happier with the how the crab's legs turned out here.  I find I tend to draw his face and claws and then sketch in the legs as an afterthought behind him.  He feels more grounded when the legs have some definition.  I'm still undecided if he needs lids around his eyes.  I go back and forth between pupils that float in a larger dark area and embedding lids in there.

On her I think I need to practice side views of her face, her head seems a bit tall. I think I could do better.  She also feels older in this image.  She's supposed to be ten so I need to be a little more careful with my proportions.

Dec 11, 2012

Trying out digital oil paint

I wasn't entirely happy with the colors I was getting with my watercolor experiments.  I think I want something more vibrant and saturated.  This is an experiment using oil paints in Art Rage starting from a blank canvas and building up layers of color.

It's a scene in the story where our hero and her trusty companion find some shelter in an unlikely place.

I was trying to get a feeling of morning light filtering through a crack in the ceiling of where they're cuddled up.  If I do decide to stay with oils for color the final art for this scene would probably end up looking a lot like this.

I found when painting with the oils it was much easier to control to color saturation than with watercolors.  I just completely covered the paper and built up the hues I wanted, with watercolors the color of the paper seems to play a more significant role as you tend to dilute and add water to bring things back to white.

Nov 18, 2012

Quick pencil sketch

Just a quick sketch of some characters about to clash with a big threat.  I was trying to find a way to see my hero's reactions without having to put the perspective over the shoulder or behind what they are reacting to.  I feel this works pretty well.

Nov 13, 2012

Revisions and art

There's been some progress.  I've rewritten the first chapter and also lengthened the story by adding a teaser chapter of the next part of the story, which lets me finish with a cliffhanger.  It's now currently at 13100 words.  Which will probably come down as I continue to revise things.

I'm also starting to insert temp artwork.  Either things I've drawn that fit the story or quick sketches to fill in areas that I think need art.

I'm almost ready to start getting other opinions on things and will reach out to friends who feel like writing and commenting on what I have so far.

Oct 10, 2012

A more watercolor look

Here is an attempt to get a more watercolor feel to my painting.  I like using the negative space of the blank paper to do shading instead of using darker and lighter paint to shade.  I also like the slightly messy edges on this one.

I think in the end I'll use a look somewhere between this and the look I've been doing up until now.

Oct 7, 2012

More characters

Trying to work out the look of a couple of characters.  Blank screen to 'done' in about 4 hours.  There's lots of stuff with this one I'm not entirely happy with, the staff made out of cubes is particularly wonky.

Oct 1, 2012

Watercolor paint of my pencil test

Quick paint test of my pencil drawing.  I need to work on my color choices a bit more, my sandstone on the foreground came out too saturated and orange... almost a mustard color.

Sep 30, 2012

Digital Pencils

I'm trying a few different ideas on how to illustrate this story.  As first I thought I might use the computer to do color work and stick to real pencils for the initial sketch.  However, now that I'm getting used to Artrage I'm reconsidering that.  The pencil tool works very well and I'm pretty happy to have an undo, no smudges, and a perfect eraser.  Here is a quick sketch showing the tools in action.  It was fun doing pencils with a tablet and I can't say I'd have a better result if I drew it on paper and scanned it.  Ill keep using artrage for pencils and see if it starts to bug me.  I don't think it will.

Sep 27, 2012

Working on character design

So here is another artrage pencil and paint experiment.  I'm trying to figure out her outfit and a color scheme.  The clothes I had her in before were a little too simple, this is working better.  The tied wraparound skirt gives me cool cloth bits to have the wind whip around, and the gladiator style sandals seem a bit more rugged than the simple sandals.  I'm not totally convinced about the gloves/arm warmers with bracelets worn on top, well see if those stick around past this painting.

Her hair is supposed to be colored braids/dreds.  Hopefully that's how it comes across.

I think she feels too lanky in this painting, arms and legs feel a bit long.  For the next one I'm going to work on her proportions more as she's supposed to be about ten years old.

Sep 23, 2012


This was a quick paint experiment using Artrage.  I blocked in the shapes first using the pencil tool.  I then used watercolors with a bit of ink and white pencil on top.  I dialed back the pencil layer but left it in there as it adds some nice roughness to the lines.  It's hard to get the color blending feeling exactly right.  I'm pretty happy with the result but I'm going to need more practice.  The color pallet and framing were heavily inspired by the dvd case of one of my favorite films.

Sep 19, 2012

I'm not really a writer...

I have a job that requires creativity and artistry but in a very different way than you might think. I am an ER nurse at an inner city hospital. We deal with some of the most marginalized patients in this country. Staff turn over rates are exceptionally high, verbal abuse is rampant, contagious diseases are ever laying in wait and most of the patients have no intention of rectifying their behaviours.

We deal with everything any big city ER would but we see high volumes of acute psychosis-often drug induced-giving doses of sedatives I had never even considered in other places. We manage life threatening drug overdoses daily and with the most minimal interventions so that we don't over correct the problem and throw the patient into intense withdrawal. We see really, really sick people who forego treatment because they are so terrified to come in or so mentally unwell that they can't seek help. They often come in because someone else called the paramedics on their behalf and they don't even want treatment.

Sep 14, 2012

Art for you!

Here's some sketches of our characters done during my 20 min commutes to work on the ferry.  They show an adventurous girl and her little crab friend.  As you can see she's small enough to fit in a barnacle, meet a starfish, or just sit on an old mussel shell attached to a dock.  I find I have just enough time to draw one or two of these each trip.  

Sep 11, 2012

Research Material

Putting the story together gave me some interesting things to research about life in the tidal zone.  I started asking my dad all kinds of questions that aren't in his area of expertise (he's a marine biologist).  If I had questions about salmon spawning I'm sure he would have been the guy to go to, but when I asked specifics about all the little snails you find on the beach he mentioned a book he would get for me.

It came in the mail a week ago and it's great.  It has an entry with pictures for most of the critters living where the story is set.  It's great reference and now I can tell apart the kinds of seaweed and have learned that some startfish can live up to twenty years.  Perfect.

Here is a link to the great book: - From Whelks to Whales

Sep 8, 2012

Who are you?

I'm Michael Blackbourn.  I can drive a pencil on paper pretty well and I help make movies.  I'm very fortunate to have a great job as a cg supervisor at The Embassy VFX.  Some of the more notable work we've done is the Mark1 suit in Iron Man, the black mech suit in District 9, the flyers in Cowboys and Aliens, and the shredder balls in Battleship.  The suit in the image to the right was completely created by using computer based tools.

I work with a very talented team of artists at The Embassy modelling, texturing, animating, and rendering these amazing film sequences.  We plug away at this work on computers, working anywhere from six weeks on a commercial to between six to ten months on films.

Sep 7, 2012

What is this blog for?

Tracking the progress of creating an illustrated book. 

Summer 2011 I went camping with my family and we stayed at an oceanside site on Hornby Island.  I’ve been camping there most summers since I was a kid, I introduced my wife Jess to it shortly after we met and we’ve taken both our daughters almost every year since (one’s 6 the other is 16 months old).

The beach there is mostly a wide sandstone shelf.  It's been worn down by a million tides and is a beautiful sculpture of different shapes.  It looks pretty alien to most peoples idea of what a beach should look like.

Sep 5, 2012

Another image test

Close up and sharp barnacles
Here are some more photographs.  All shot with a macro lens.  None of these subjects move too quickly (the crab skeleton and barnacle tie for slowest) so it was easy to get nice shots of them.  The periwinkle was unhappy I rolled him over, but didn't come out any more than this.

These pics helped inspire me to start working on a story that takes place on the beach, and has a perspective that would let you see that world from this scale.
Crab Skeleton
Periwinkle coming out to say hi

I'm new to this blogging stuff...

Crab and Sandstone
Before I really start using this blog I'm trying to teach myself how to post on it.  So here goes, an image post of a purple shore crab on a sandstone beach.  If you stick around you're likely to see more of this beach.

This little guy let me get some nice shots of him before zipping away back into a tidepool.  I was surprised how much detail I managed to catch in focus using my kit zoom.  Assuming this post works ok I'll post up some of the shots of this kind of shore life captured with a macro lens.  Much more impressive.

Test Post

This is my first post.  Test!