Illustration Training x 3 with Composition Collages

Perhaps some of you remember my older post about training composing your images with the “compo-game”. Well I have to admit it can get boring after a while, so here’s an alternative from which your skills can profit double!

The next time you paint something simply scan it (or take a picture and print it out, if you don’t have access to a scanner). Now open it with any program that can process images and zoom in (you could use a magnifying glass for the printed pic, I guess). Now scroll around and search for interesting parts. If something catches your eye don’t hesitate and copy just what you see on the monitor in that very moment (the zoomed-in part). Gather all parts in a different file and when you feel like there’s nothing more to add start freely moving them around. Your aim is to create a good balance between the parts themselves AND in regard to the negative space.

Here’s an example:

At the end of the day you’ve created a painting, used it as a basis for a second image and you improved your composing skills. WIN! WIN! WIN!

Qualification Test 23th May Review

The qualification test for the upcoming winter semester took place during the past two days (given topic was “sitting”). Nosy as I am I couldn’t resist to sneak in the portfolio rating rooms, the place where the candidates leave their portfolios for further evaluation by three professors and three to four students in each room. IF your portfolio catches their attention you get an invitation for the second test on the next day (the topic this time was “point”). You then have four hours to complete a few different assignments on the given topic challenging your creativity and putting you under great pressure 🙂

But let’s talk about my journey to portfolio hell 😀

I went to three different rooms (from four or five) and here’s what I found out:

  • first of all the professors read your personal data and really take your favored specification in consideration (specifications: illustration, media design, communication design, product design) so don’t write “illustration” if you have no drawing skills whatever!
  • more possibly important facts about you: your age (if your work has a few flaws but you’re still very young the professors tend to occasionally ignore your mistakes BUT sometimes too young candidates can get sorted out so “they can use some 1-2 semesters to further develope their skills before applying again”), your current occupation (school, uni, work etc.), design knowledge (if you’re 28 and never heard of any designers or went to any exhibitions etc., that’s bad!)
  • every portfolio gets only 1-7 minutes so it’s gotta be striking!
  • mind maps, sketches and descriptions to your work (very important) are a bonus!
  • don’t save money on the portfolio folder itself! if it is handmade then you MUST make it look and work good (there were some portfolios that made it really hard to turn the pages because of the way they were crafted…)
  • a whole bunch of portfolios didn’t make it to the final round because there was no common theme -it seems some prospective students were afraid to concentrate on one theme only

On the day of the second test the candidates who weren’t invited got the chance to go to a portfolio consultation with some of the university’s students. You can bring your own artwork or just listen to the critique given to the others, it’s up to you!

Oh, and one more thing: All of the information I’m giving you is just my subjective view 😉 No refunds!


Modules – A better Understanding of Dimension

Right now everyone is working on modules in the Design Foundation Course. After creating more or less flat 2D reliefs this was the next step in understanding dimension. It’s really quite different from simply drawing something on paper.

There are a lot of new things one has to consider when going 3D! First of all you have to design your object with modular attributes. In this phase I made many quick sketches and made some modules out of paper on the fly to test their functionality. That’s were most mistakes can be found (and should be since it’s really time consuming to do everything all over again because you overlooked something). The second step is creating the construction draft. It’s best to use the computer for this part. It’s much more precise. Step three is choosing the right material (I used 250 g/m² copy paper and regular glue). In order to test the full range of combinations you’ll need at least 20 modules.

In my point of view the most important part is the designing phase. If you make mistakes here everything you produce later on is meaningless in the end. That’s why you shouldn’t miss out on the testing phase! Although you can’t find every possible flaw you sure can avoid making major mistakes making all your efforts worthless. When I created my modules initially they did look sturdy but after constructing a few bigger units I realized the connections were too unstable. Therefore I had to redesign everything and start all over again 🙁

But now everything works out just fine 🙂


Simulatneously Construct Images

A few days ago I’ve read an interesting interview with a professional concept artist and at the very end he advised all beginners to always keep the whole picture in mind and to work on all its parts simultaneously. This reminded me of my nude study classes 😀 The reason is that a lot of the other students there tend to start drawing a line and then keep following it without making the effort to construct the humans. This approach could work for some but generally is a risky endeavor! In most cases you end up with wrong proportions or, if you’re coloring, with mismatching color combinations and/or values. Additionally you miss to train your image construction skills which can be very useful when drawing without reference (you cannot follow a visible line there!).

From my own experience I can support this thesis but I have to admit that after a lot of training one does get better and better in drawing a reasonable amount of outlines without construction. But whenever more than one object is involved it’s really best to rough everything out and see how the composition and proportions work out. Giving this phase enough space can save you a lot of trouble later on. It’s a lot easier to change proportions in an early stage than when you’re almost done (if it’s possible at all).

So to sum up my tip of the week in one sentence: Constructing your drawing’s objects simultaneously gives you greater control over the outcome and spares you a lot of headache later on!

Fast Ways to Illustrate

This week’s tip of the week is all about illustrating!

As a professional illustrator you’ll need to show good results FAST and the three quickest ways to color your images are:

  • aquarelle (watercolors)
  • markers (“Copic” is a well known Japanese marker manufacturer)
  • computer

Each of these individual approaches gives more or less different results and varies in their purchasing expenses. While aquarelle is obviously the oldest coloring technique in this context it has proven to show great results after a rather sharp learning curve and is still far from being replaced. But let’s have a deeper analysis of the three methods:


This is only a simple overview. I can cover some of the points mentioned in detail in future posts 😉

Although I tried to avoid advertising specific manufacturers I mentioned some for the sake of giving you real examples you can work with!

Reference in Other Artist’s Artwork

Tip of the week time!

Got a favorite artist/artists? Then you should find some of their artwork and start analyzing it!

Let’s say you like how someone draws people. Then pick out a few simple images made by this artist and try breaking it down to simple rules you can remember. These rules (like proportions, forms, colors etc.) don’t need to be conventional. Try really finding your own helping anchors, patterns and definitions, this way you’ll memorize them much better than anything you are taught from the outside. Make the image’s construction your own invention! Perhaps there is more than one way to draw the human depicted. Don’t be afraid to create some crazy formulas! The more unique the better 🙂

Nevertheless you should avoid applying too many different patterns. This is going to get you confused later on when you try to remember how you constructed the image. Use what you already know and combine it with a unique theory you came up with. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not about inventing a whole new way on drawing no one has ever thought of. This whole exercise is about the process not the outcome. Your brain learns and remembers your own inventions over external ones.

I actually started using this approach not so long ago but I have to say it really works better for me! I learned a lot of things by only drawing them once but concentrating on finding my own patterns. By the way, this really trains creativity 😉


This week my tip of the week will be dealing with exhibitions, conventions and competitions connected to drawing.

You should attend one of the mentioned above every now and then if possible. You can learn a lot on this kind of events. And I’m not only talking about enjoying the newest comic books and illustrations.

First of all, you can analyze the market: What’s in right now? Which artists are getting a lot of attention and why? What’s making a good profit? How do artists promote their work?  You should at least try to find the answer to some of these questions. It can really help you define your own strategy to success a little bit better. On the other hand you can try to set a foot in the biz yourself if you feel ready for it. If you’re just starting out you don’t have anything to lose, right! You should approach other artists or publishers and ask for advice. Most of them should be more than happy to help you 🙂 Especially new artists are really talkative.

Last week I went to the ComicAction exhibition in Essen, Germany. There I met a few fairly new artists and asked them some questions on their work process and the materials/programs they are using to create their artwork. Everyone was very friendly and answered EVERY question I had in detail. I really learned a lot but more important my morale got boosted since now I saw with my own eyes how the artist’s reality looks like and I really liked it. But that doesn’t mean I ignore the hardships artists have to bear 😉

Now then, start planning your next trip to some drawing related event and don’t forget your note book (or con-hon if you’re in to that) AND your sketchbook 😉

The Book of Life

It’s time for a fundamental Tip of the Week!

As soon as you seriously decide to learn drawing you will have to start observing the world around you very carefully. If you have got a flawless photographical memory that alone should be enough. If you are not blessed with one you should start working with a sketch book like the rest of us 😉

Wherever you go you have to carry a small sketch book with you and as soon as you have some time to spare or when you see something interesting DRAW, put it down on paper! Perhaps you saw an interesting bird or someone on the bus did a particular gesture you can use for your next comic/manga or you just had a groundbreaking epiphany on color theory and you need to illustrate it really quickly. But don’t restrict your options with a sketch book, it’s not simply a collection of white sheets to draw on, you can write down any idea you get, copy the math homework or write down the newest cake recipe. The sketch book is your Book of Life!

To quote my drawing professor: “You must get accustomed to your sketch book to the extent that you can’t get out of the house without it! Just like with your purse or your cell phone.”

I used to ignore this most basic but crucial advice myself. But then I just forced myself to try it out and I was really surprised how well I memorized everything I sketched! It’s incredible! You really have to start walking around with one of those trendy sketch books, too 😉

And by any means do not throw your full books away! You never know when you can use one of those sketches or ideas you documented there.