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Collection of Rough Digital Illustrations (Round 1)

As with anything in life, to hone your skills you must practice every day. Therefore, an illustrator must do lots of different drawing exercises, every day. Especially when they are learning. These sketches in particular are some of the first ever digital illustrations I did on a Wacom tablet, as early as age fourteen. None were created to be finished pieces or with any particular theme in mind – all just doodles.

Oddly enough, the images in this collection are all character illustrations. This was not intended, just the ground I happened to be covering at the time. All of these were created in Adobe Illustrator apart from this one. I find this one the most interesting just because of its quirky canvas size.

What I like about the canvas size is how it resulted in making a well divided image. The subtle, fuzzy background airbrush helps aid this division and allows for the red to stand about above the characters head, perhaps implying it is his thinking space. Though this was my first practice at brushwork in Photoshop, it was most useful as an exercise in composition.

Having looked at my first brushwork, it seems suitable now to look at my first vector work. Or rather, the first document I ever counted as 'finished' enough to save out of Illustrator. Again, he is a floating character bust with very little explanation and no background. Still, it is a building block on which my skills are now founded upon. Anyone familiar with Adobe Illustrator will know what a nightmare it can be to layer your image properly. For sure, that's what I was working out here. Soon I discovered how different the Illustrator brushes are compared to working with the basic shapes or pen tools.

The purpose of the exercise was to see what I could achieve in the amount of time I had set myself. This would have been about 50 minutes. After the first two attempts I had gotten used to the basics and my virtual equipment was laid out in a way that suited me. So, to spice up the exercise I decided to start scanning in my pencil sketches and treating at it as a colouring exercise.

This fantastic piece is the result of a long-running private joke about a friend who really liked cupcakes. Needless to say, cupcakes are a satirical reference and many years later when he saw this picture, he ended up blocking me on facebook. Still, it provided laughs and useful knowledge. It was the first time I had gone over one of my pencil sketches so I learnt firsthand how lovely post-production can be.

Briefly I stopped and looked at my other exercises and decided something was missing; I now wanted to look more at light and how I could go about colouring this with vectors. Being used to Flash, I went for the layering techniques learned from my previous exercises and used opacity overlays. Instantly I was taken aback by how much more control you have for this and it is also the first sketch that I discovered the uses of Illustrators gradient tool. So this is yet another keystone in my foundations.

Finally, the weirdest of the bunch. Combining it all here, including Photoshop brushes! Breakdancing Commie is the first pencil sketch which I then post-produced in both Illustrator and Photoshop. The original sketch had very strong contrast, as you may notice. I was trying to combine the opacity shading techniques I had learnt in the previous exercise subtly with the strong vector outlines. Later this lead me on to layer masks and other techniques. This would be a nice one to revisit as my basic drawing skills have gotten much stronger since then. Still, not bad for when I was just fifteen.