Thursday, 30 July 2009

Art Post: Completed Twitter Illustration

This is the new background image for my Twitter profile page. I kept this pretty simple in the digital stage. There's shading, but I didn't really add many details to the hair. Total time was about three and a half hours. I kept the colouring in shades of brown, but it sometimes gets a more greyish tint on screen.

This drawing features myself and my pet cat, Tabitha.

The pencil version of this is available here, if you'd like to compare. (I flipped the bangs for the digital, to be more accurate)

Hope you enjoy the image :)

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Monday, 27 July 2009

Green Corner: Page 24

Page twenty four of Green Corner has been published. Please visit the Green Corner website to see the update.

Progress images and Pencils listed in the image gallery have also been updated. New icons and an updated incentive will be added later.

I hope you enjoy the updates! :)

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Sunday, 19 July 2009

Character Study: Zalanda Eritsuro

Zalanda being snooty, from page 21
If you've been reading my art blog for a while, you're probably familiar with my comic series, Green Corner. Zalanda is the primary antagonist of the series and the older sister of Aena, the protagonist. You can read Zalanda's character bio on the Green Corner site.

There are certain subtleties to the character relationships in Green Corner. Of course, I want the characters to have depth and be interesting, but I also want them to seem like they could be real people aside from the fantastic setting. I draw some inspiration from my own experiences for that kind of natural feeling, but none of the characters are really modeled after anyone I know. Aspects of their personalities may be similar to people I know, and some of the things they say may be quoted from life; but that's as far as it goes.

Zalanda is a character that I find a lot of people are drawn to at first. I think my character design for her is very successful in this regard. She's beautiful and curvaceous; she's got the kind of look that other girls and women are envious of (even if they won't openly admit it).

One of the things that bothered me growing up was the image of the female ideal that girls are exposed to. Zalanda is very much a commentary on how that type of image can be hurtful to the self-esteem of other girls. Girls are incessantly told and shown that the ideal woman is thin, with a small waist and large breasts. No matter how much you may try to tune it out, when an often impossible to achieve image is out there that much, it only encourages a division and sometimes an elitist attitude from people who feel that they are more important because of their physical appearance alone.

There's nothing wrong with taking pride in your appearance, of course. But there is a difference between caring about how you look and being elitist about your looks.

For Green Corner, I made a point of making Zalanda the gorgeous older sister with an abrasive personality. She has a sharp tongue and never hesitates to speak her mind. She can seem rather cruel and dismissive. That's an intentional commentary on how a supposed ideal of female beauty says nothing about a person's worth or personality. External beauty is only physical.

It may seem strange for me to say this, since I'm a visual artist and a graphic designer; but I don't think that physical beauty adds a great deal more value to anyone. I don't think that a physically beautiful person deserves more good fortune than a person with average looks.

Zalanda, bored when the attention isn't focused on her. From page 23.
Like Zalanda, a woman can look beautiful on the outside but also be a sour, selfish, petty person. Zalanda knows when she's being hurtful, but she doesn't care about the feelings of others for the most part. She is the type of person who craves attention and will bully others in an attempt to gain power over them and distract from her own flaws.

She is very much a combination of female bullies I've met in my life. She spreads lies, shuns people she dislikes, and leads the crowd for no apparent reason. She is superficially popular. Others may envy that for a time, until they come to the realization that she's not the type of person you want to emulate in terms of actions and/or personality. Rather, she's the type of mean girl that other girls are glad to see fall flat on her face in a sort of karmic retribution.

Self-worth is an objective thing, a personal thing. Improving your appearance for yourself is great, but doing so for attention from others could indicate you need to look more closely at your self-esteem. In Pathfinders, a friend of mine was once asked by one of our Leaders why she was wearing makeup at camp, as there were no boys around. My friend smartly retorted that she was wearing makeup for herself, not for boys. Experiences like that that really made Guiding memorable for me, and encouraged me to feel better about myself. WAGGGS is a great thing for girls and women to become involved in.

Green Corner is very much a series about teen girls, for teen girls. I have specifically developed characters such as Zalanda to encourage teen girls to think more about what it means to be physically attractive, and if it needs to mean much for them. But I also want girls reading the series to take comfort in characters like Aena who are openly frustrated and envious of the supposedly ideal body image. Aena sometimes finds it annoying to be dismissed as "cute" in comparison to her voluptuous sister. Like a lot of girls, she worries and feels insecure about herself at times; despite being genuinely well-liked by many people, skilled, and charming.

Zalanda making feeble excuses about teasing her sister, while Aena is unamused. From page 22.

It's a normal thing, but it can feel very isolating when you're a teenager. We need more positive influences for girls and women. We should be giving more encouragement to appreciate our own achievements and assets. Being a teen is hard, you will probably struggle and stumble many times. But don't forget that you are worth something, regardless of the nonsense written in magazines. If you really think about it, you already know how amazing you are.

Other things to check out on the topic of self-esteem and the feminine "ideal:"

The introduction of Zalanda and Kasha. The contrast of the antagonist and the celebrity. From page 10.
  • Dove's campaign for real beauty – a refreshing campaign that encourages girls and women to recognize that beauty comes in many shapes and sizes. I love that this campaign is honest about Dove products too and doesn't make exaggerated claims about moisturizer making you look youthful. A moisturizer promotes healthy skin, nothing more.
  • Girl Guides of Canada is a wonderful organization for girls as young as five through to adulthood that promotes knowledge and self-esteem. Outside of Canada, check out the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (go to the "Our World" section to find the member organization in your country).
  • Sex, Lies, and Photoshop a commentary video from the New York Times about the extent of Photoshop retouching in magazines and whether it should be disclosed.
  • David Airey is a professional graphic designer and discussed Sex, Lies, and Photoshop on his blog previously. I'm glad to see that both genders are concerned about the topic of retouching and how it encourages negative self-esteem.
  • The Photoshop Effect blog post by Sarah of is a companion to the video of her experience on a professional photo shoot and having her image retouched. There's also a second video where Sarah and experts further discuss retouching.

What do you think about the topic of the feminine "ideal?" Any more articles or videos you'd recommend? yecrqwzm7f

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Saturday, 11 July 2009

Book Recommendation: The Art Model's Handbook

While I've only reviewed the samples on his website, Andrew Cahner's book looks like a great resource for models and those who work with models for figure drawing or life drawing. Even the sample chapters offer information that's bound to be useful for art models and those hiring art models. It's definitely the kind of book I would want to have on hand for reference if I were looking to hire a model.

Here's a little about the book, from the Art Model's Handbook website:

The Art Model’s Handbook explains what you need to know to model for art classes and professional artists. You’ll learn about the structure of a figure drawing session, how to come up with interesting poses, costume modeling, fine art photography, professional conduct, finding work, and security concerns. Awkward but important questions about nudity and body issues are addressed. Guidelines for faculty and sample policies are also included.

Based on the experience of the author, plus interviews with male and female models, artists, fine art photographers, and art school management, this is the definitive guide for art models, artists, and workshop leaders. The book is illustrated with figure drawings, paintings, sculpture, and photographs.

You can take a look at some excerpts from the book on the site, just select Table of Contents and Sample Chapters in the menu.

If you'd like to buy the book, it's available on

Andrew, by the way, is the model who supplied the pose reference for the Suko with a Rose illustration.

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Friday, 10 July 2009

Which is More Readable? Black on White or White on Black?

Speaking as someone who's studied typography, there are truths to both sides of this argument. I'm going to get a bit technical here, feel free to ask about any terms that seem confusing.

Black text on a light background is common in print because it is high contrast and very legible, but also because it's more cost-effective to print. Printing light text reversed out of dark ink is a little more involved and may involve trapping to ensure that fine lines aren't obscured by ink spreading through the substrate.

This is more of a problem with a lower-quality or toothy substrate. Newsprint, for instance, generally requires a low line screen value because ink spreads very easily. This also makes trapping a little more tricky. A coated paper (or even a calendared paper) found in art books and the like will require a higher line screen value, and trapping is easier.

When I say line screen, I'm referring to the halftone line screens used in most professional quality presses. It's similar to the process used by inkjet printers. Resolution (measured in Dots Per Inch for print) is closely related to line screen, being 1.5 to 2 times the line screen value. For newsprint, 150 dpi is usually crisp; for art books and more high resolution printing, 300 dpi is a common value.

Screen resolution is measured in Pixels Per Inch, which is similar to DPI. 72 ppi used to be a very common screen resolution. Nowadays, users often have larger screens capable of higher resolutions. This is something that web designers need to remember when setting type size on the web. Setting type in pixels is unreliable as the physical measurement changes based on resolution. But that's a topic for another post.

For the typography enthusiasts, there are 72 postcript points per inch when measuring type for print. That doesn't mean that type is printed at 72 dpi. Type is usually treated as vector shapes (which are considered resolution independent, so they will print at the highest possible resolution based on the print settings). Again, that's not really something I want to discuss in-depth for this post.

Back to the topic at hand: if we're really going to get specific, the issue is actually about high contrast for readability. For something like a projected presentation, white text on black is actually far more readable and less straining to read, regardless of the audience. In a dark room, it's easy to focus on bright letters but straining to focus on dark letters surrounded by a bright background.

Looking at a computer screen though, it boils down to things like age, visual acuity, and personal preference. It's also a mistake to treat print and on-screen media as overly similar. There are many errors that people make when they try to transition from one to the other. Certain things work in print that don't work on screen and vice versa.

There is high contrast between the primary type and the background on my art blog. But it is not black text on a white background (at least not when you visit the site, I can't control the display in feed aggregators). I chose a dark type on a light background combination as I want to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.

However, if I were designing a site that primarily targeted teenagers, light type on a dark background could work just fine. Teenagers online are more accustomed to looking at light text on a dark background.

There also needs to be some consideration given to serif versus sans-serif typefaces as well as the weight of a typeface. A very fine weight sans-serif can be hard to read in body copy when the text is lighter than the background. On screen this can cause some readability issues if the type is too thin or too small. In print, the type would need to be trapped more carefully so that letterforms aren't obscured, meaning that there are more possible problems with this combination in print.

Many studies will tell you that a sans-serif typeface is more readable on screen, and a serif typeface is more readable in print; but that's a bit subjective. There are certainly ways to use both on screen and in print effectively.

I have a program on my computer for checking contrast for colour-blind visitors called Sim Daltonism. I use it sometimes on my sites and sites I design for clients to ensure that there is distinguishable contrast for all text. It's a simple program, but it makes it easy to double-check contrast.

I hope you found this post interesting. Feel free to comment with any of your thoughts on the subject of contrast for readability.

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Hi! My name is Emily.

Welcome to my art blog. I am an independent graphic designer and illustrator from the Toronto area. I create print and web solutions for a variety of businesses and individuals with a personal touch and conscientious approach.

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