blog.billet-deaux

artendurance asked: Hello my name is Chelsea Robbins, I absolutely love your art. I actually have the tomb raider poster of yours. Very inspiring work. I just always wanted to know if you color the photos by hand or by computer?

Aw, thank you!

My color is all digital! Everything up to that point, though, I do with traditional media.

Promised process post!

Trailblazer went through a lot of changes, ultimately all of them for the better.  I gathered up all the process pieces I have (which is hard to remember to do when working under a non-disclosure agreement, mainly because I can’t share them with anyone), because I am on a mission to keep talking about process whenever I can.  Mostly because it’s fun to do, and no one can stop me from writing small novels about it.  Mu hu hu.

Lately I have been utilizing pinterest boards to collect my inspiration and reference all in one easy place.  Before, I would throw it all into a folder on my desktop and work from that.  Now, having a fancy wizard phone and often working from places away from my desktop, I needed a way to access this folder remotely, yet keep it private because NDAs were involved.  I tried dropbox and google drive, but both of their apps were clunky and not suited for viewing files in a slideshow format, which I needed to click around quickly between images.  So pinterest it was!

I made my board for this piece public on pinterest now, so check it out, if you’re into that sort of thing!

You’ll probably notice that my board goes from reference images from the source material into completely unrelated illustrations by various artists.  Around there, I started thinking of how I wanted this poster to look, what concepts I wanted to work with, and how I wanted these concepts to feel, so I began looking up and into artists that did these things.  A lesson I learned long ago at the Illustration Academy: if you want to illustrate something, there’s at least five other illustrators who have already illustrated that thing and done so brilliantly, so go learn from them.

I also learned a very important lesson about sketches with this project, especially when proposing ideas to clients: they’ll get back to you a lot faster and be more assertive in their choices when your sketches are not vague, scribbly thumbnails.  The first image is what I originally proposed; the second is what the idea evolved into, at the urging of my excellent art director, Marc Scheff.

Plus, cleaning up my concept like this made my work so much easier on my behalf.  Everything in the image was depicted; my tonal balance was more or less figured out.  It was fifty times easier to go to final with this sketch, as opposed to going to final from the scribbly thumbnails.  The point is: don’t be lazy with your concepts.

I originally imagined the negative space in the composition around our lone hero as an extension of the Shishkebab’s flame.  All jagged shapes and whatnot.  Heavily leaning on the Mignola influence.  Now, I realize how unclear that shape was and was yet again thankful for aforementioned excellent art director, because it was Marc’s suggestion to make that space look like smoke.  (Why I never thought of that myself, I don’t know.  Too obvious, I guess??)

Anyway, one simple suggestion changed this illustration—and changed it for me—entirely.  I went from being simply okay with the composition to absolutely falling in love with it.  Which is why critique is so valuable to me, and why I try to involve as many other minds in my creative process when I can.  Also, a good art director is priceless.

Also: bonus image!

Color scheme that I never submitted, for good reason; it was too muddy, was too harsh in contrast, and the vibrant yet dark colors would have been difficult to reproduce accurately as a screenprint.  It did have a darker, apocalyptic feel going for it, but I ultimately went with the final red-orange color scheme!

So the fine folks over at Treehouse Brand Stores picked another franchise for me to illustrate: none other than Fallout.  These last couple of weeks have been particularly grueling for my (im)patience, because good lord I was so thrilled with how this came out and I wanted to share it immediately with EVERYONE.

And now I can!

Trailblazer is up for presale at the Bethesda Store!  This is a 18x24 inch five-color limited-edition screenprint, each individually numbered and printed on French paper.

If you have questions about buying or shipping this poster, please direct them to the lovely folks running the Bethesda store, because I probably won’t know!  Anything else, though, the ask box is always open.  Except for what my favorite weapon from the series is, because that much should be obvious.

I’ll be posting a bit of process on this one in a bit, so keep an eye out for that!  This piece definitely went through some changes along the way, but all of them for the better.

Thanks to Treehouse and especially art director Marc Scheff for their awesomeness and continuing to give me assignments that are less ‘work’ and more ‘hell yes’.  I love when the thirteen-year-old kid in me is like I WANNA DRAW THE RIDICULOUS FLAMING SWORD and then they totally let me get away with it.

IT BEGINS.

IT BEGINS.

My portfolio website and other promo material are all hella inconsistent and in need of a branding overhaul, anyway, so I’ve been working on fixing that lately.  Just sketching at this point and trying to figure out what fits.  Fun art stuff now, hours of obnoxious coding later.
By the way, lately I have been using pinterest to organize my inspirational images for illustration projects (rather than throwing it all into a cluttered file on my desktop), so if you’re into that sort of thing, check it out!

My portfolio website and other promo material are all hella inconsistent and in need of a branding overhaul, anyway, so I’ve been working on fixing that lately.  Just sketching at this point and trying to figure out what fits.  Fun art stuff now, hours of obnoxious coding later.

By the way, lately I have been using pinterest to organize my inspirational images for illustration projects (rather than throwing it all into a cluttered file on my desktop), so if you’re into that sort of thing, check it out!

Poster for Our Fair City's season five launch party!  Which is coming up!

The delay between the final and the sketches I posted earlier this month were partially due to holiday traveling, but also the fact that this thing went through several color overhauls.  Settling on the ‘vintage newsreel’ look here took a while!

If you’re in Chicago on the 18th, come usher in the new season with us!  I’d post a bunch of information about the where’s and when’s, but hey—all the info is already on the poster.  (The Facebook event has it all, too.)

I don’t talk much about process aside from throwing photos at my dear readers every so often, so maybe I should!  Or maybe just go on a long rambling tangent about how I learned to love drawing with a pencil again.  Basically the same thing.

When I was at the Illustration Academy several summers ago, I became a tracing paper convert.  Before then, I would take my scribbly messy thumbnails and scan them in, then monkey around with them in Photoshop.  Usually by drawing over my sketches in layers and tweaking the rotation of every limb and finger and second-guessing every line I put down.  It felt “easier” to me than drawing them with a pencil, but apparently “easy” here just meant “gets quickly overworked with unlimited undos”, usually draining the life right out of my drawings and ideas.  My linework was already very clean and tight, but it suddenly became stiff and uninteresting.  I tried to force that energy back into it at a point by abandoning my tradition of clean inks and basically using my scribbly sketches as ‘inks’, but everything just became illegible as a result.  Which is weird, I thought, that my postage-sized thumbnails could have incredible amounts of energy when my sketches could not.

Then I watched Gary Kelley work through a sketch using tracing paper.  He’d just take an enlarged version of his thumbnail and slap a piece of the tissue over it, deftly redraw the sketch without touching his eraser, and then slap a fresh piece over that and do it again.  And again.  And again.  It was like watching a sculptor carve a statue out of this scribbly fog of lines and smudges.  The final drawing would simply emerge from beneath the layers and layers, this ocean of trace and tape.

And it was all so goddamn beautiful.

It was there I found myself thinking, “Well, shoot.  This is basically what I do in Photoshop already.  Just analog.  Why am I not getting results like this?”

The next assignment I had, I bought myself a roll of tracing paper and just tried to do exactly what I always did.  Command + Shift + N was a taping down a new layer of trace.  Command + T, I’d just get up and muck around with the photocopier.  The ‘M’ key meant I picked up scissors to cut out the offending crooked eye or whatever it was and move it around with my own two hands.  The ‘E’ key was no longer—tracing paper doesn’t erase well, prone to smudging the lead around more than anything else—so “undo” quickly became “redraw”.  Again and again.

It was so strangely satisfying.  Suddenly, my work was tangible again.

It took me around six years to get comfortable enough working on a tablet to make things I was proud enough of.  The biggest problem I had was the disconnect between what I was seeing (i.e. my screen) and what my hand was doing.  It’s not that I would stare at my own hand when I was drawing, but I was always subconsciously aware of it in my line of sight and therefore knew how to direct it around on the piece of paper.  When you’re working on an Intuos-style tablet, it just…doesn’t work that way.  I still don’t think I ever really got “used” to it as much as I just found ways to make my awkward lumbering hand work with it.  Linework and inking, though, required finesse and control and energy, which I could not get with my tablet.

So when I first started really making digital work as opposed to using traditional mediums, everything felt weird and backwards and clunky and, as a result, my work lost a lot.  It became stiff and restrained as soon as I started working my sketches in Photoshop.  My lovely glowing screen promised me so many things that I could never get it to do.

But then I suppose I saw the true light.

In conclusion:
trace is your Lord,
trace is your Savior.

Love the trace,
worship the trace,
respect the trace.

I’m really enjoying typography lately.

I’m really enjoying typography lately.

The final spread!  And a WIP!

And that’s it!  It’s done!  The comic for the next Our Fair City anthology is complete and sent off for printing.  I’m waiting to hear whether or not I can post the full thing here for all of my dear tumblrs to read, but in the meantime, keep an eye out for the anthology.

Yeah, sure: sometimes you draw something once and it’s perfect.

But in my experience: most of the time you have to redraw something a thousand times before you get it right.

(Man, this was definitely one of those latter times.)

Yeah, sure: sometimes you draw something once and it’s perfect.

But in my experience: most of the time you have to redraw something a thousand times before you get it right.

(Man, this was definitely one of those latter times.)