Thursday, December 11, 2008

ATC Shading Tutorial

I have had a little break from blogging - partly because November is National Novel Writing Month - see the official NaNoWriMo website for more details about that. Suffice it to say that November is a mad month where you write 1667 words of fiction every night until you have a 50,000 word manuscript which becomes the first draft of a novel. This I did, and my sanity was much affected.

But I won. For those interested in the gruesome details, my novel is about Melburnian vampires, and was tremendously fun to write, and most likely incredibly dreary to read. Long may it languish in a drawer.

A little while ago, someone asked for a tutorial on how I shade my ATCs. Here's a step by step guide to how that happens for me. There's lots of ways to achieve this effect, and the more you play around with it, the more you get a feeling for your own style. In the (misquoted) words of Captain Barbossa, these aren't rules, they're more like guidelines.

First of all, cut out your figures and play around with them on the background. Look for interesting crops; set the images off-centre or only use part of it. These backgrounds are made from the newspaper that covers my work mat and gets covered in lots of random colours. When the paper is caked with paint, I stamp randomly all over it with a text stamp. This newspaper is from 2005, that's how long it's been accumulating paint and texture. It's all lovely and nubbly from the layers of colour.

I paste the newspaper over 300gsm watercolour paper with gel medium. Newspaper has some stretch in it, so it moulds around the edges of the card, too. See those little splashes of aqua that have randomly shown through the magenta? I would never create something like that. It has to be a happy accident.

While you at it, sponge the edges of the images with butterscotch ink - it takes away the white outline of the paper the image is printed on and helps it to blend with the backgound better.

When I've decided where the image is going to go, I make a highlighted area, using a sponge and some paint in a complementary colour. At the moment, I'm fond of using stencils to make interesting shapes which the image will lie over.

I've made these stencils by using my shape cutter to cut holes in glossy card. I'm hoping the glossy card will last a bit longer than more porous card, but these are really not permanent fixtures. I'm hoping they last at least as long as my current faddish interest in stencilling does.

While I'm stencilling the shapes, I also sponge around the edge of the card to start building a border of sorts. I'll flesh that border out later with my pastel pencils. I stencil with a latex sponge, and I'm using acrylic paint. This is red-violet acrylic paint, and it's more translucent than most acrylics, but that suits me for now. It's quite violently vibrant, too, but that suits the lavish, faux-Middle Eastern imagery I'm using.

Now I grab a text stamp and stamp with a contrasting, eye-catching colour over the shape. I'm using a Wordsworth stamp, and Galaxy Gold Brilliance ink.

See how I've stamped right over the shape without worrying about the text overlapping? Because it's gold, and fairly transparent, it vanishes into nothing against the mad, multicoloured background. That's sneaky and lazy, but it works better than using a mask, which can leave a little outline around your shape.

Now I grab a magenta pastel pencil, and use it to outline the shape, and the frame of the ATC. This is like using eyeshadow - you start with the lightest colours and move through to the darkest colours. At least that's how I do it. Smudge the pastel colour with your finger or a paper stump, which is one of those nifty little art tools that can save you from wearing out your finger when working over a large area.

Then grab a darker colour - I'm using black because it suits my palette, but you could use brown or navy or something else. Run a line around the edge of your shape to highlight it further and to add dimension.

Now wave good bye to the card with the door-shape, because this is the last you'll see of it. Shortly after this I made a bad artistic decision with a white gel pen, far too shameful to show to the public. The white gel pen is my private shame.

Now it's time to past your image down. See how using half the image is much more effective than putting the whole figure in the centre of the card? If I were making a lot of these for a swap, I'd crop the image before I printed it, to save on ink and paper. There's no sense in printing out her legs twelve times if you're only going to cut them off. Cut them off in the design stage - she won't know anything about it.

So, after looking at the image for a while, I decided that she looked as though she had just gotten out of her beautiful bed, ready for a new and exciting day. So I took my gold gel pen and drew some sun rays coming off the half-circle, and stamped some letters onto thin gold paper. I used the black pencil to give shadow to one side of the sunbeam, too. The shape of the stencil and the woman's figure gave the card a theme. Sometimes this goes very well, and sometimes there is the private shame of the white gel pen.

Last of all, I use my paintbrush to create a thin, raised edge of gold paint - it's not straight or perfect, but it suits the organic colour of the card. You can see that the gold text I stamped on the semi-circle is almost all covered up - that wasn't intentional, but it still has a presence on the card.
And there she is:


Debbi Baker said...

Congratulations!! And I love the wonderful tutorial but I have to admit that it is killing me that you have covered up so much of that wonderful background!! (And I laugh at my DH when he says that to me...) Seriously though - it is a great tutorial and I love all the pictures. Good to see you back blogging too, by the way.

Pauline said...

I love this tutorial! I feel like you've just been sitting at my kitchen table showing me how - now I just need to go wash the paint off my hands and do another one!

Congratulations on the novel! Lots of us think about one day, maybe, trying it, but you did it! Melbourne Vampires? Love it - if you can just turn it into a musical...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that wonderful tutorial for your fabulous background. Beautiful ATC! xx

NessH said...

Danielle, thanks for was great..I think I will dig out my pastel pencils in the future..

Diane said...

A big congratulations to you & thanks so much for the great tutorial! Happy Holidays to you & your family!

France said...

I'll be back to read the tutorial (hate when I open a new interesting blog page and it's time for bed) but... CONGRATS on your NaNo-thingie (as opposed to a Na-Nothing-ie)... when it is getting published? when can we read it? What a cool idea!!! I wouldn't even know where to start writing a novel (but then again, I do seem to always write too much in comments on other people's blogs!)

cheerio! (watch your mailbox)