Get Your Ideas Onto Paper Fast

Get Your Ideas Onto Paper Fast

I’m still amazed by the fact that many artists do absolutely no prep work before starting on their final illustration. Seriously. They just sit down and start working on their final piece with no concept concerning the structure of their image.

Ultimately as they continue to work, the flaws in their image making start to creep in. That’s why I’m creating this “Illustration Process” course at Drawing Tutorials Online. This new course is all about having you take a step back, analyzing your image making process. It’s about making sure you have a system.

System is not really an artistic type of word. However if you want to create consistently good artwork you need a system, or process.

Getting your ideas out onto the paper is a very important step in the image making process. That is where thumbnail sketches come into play.

Thumbnail sketches are meant to be created in five minutes for less. Personally I love to draw them in an impressionistic tonal sort of way. I like to block in big areas of tone with a really soft pencil drawing more like a painter.

Consider thumbnail sketches a visual brain dump.

It’s important that you take some time to draw your concepts out on paper before you start to work on your final illustration. With your first thumbnail drawn you immediately start to question it. Wait maybe if I draw another, this way, it will make more sense. That’s the beauty of creating thumbnail sketches.

They are a no risk way to loosely compose an image with tone, perspective and texture.



I highly recommend that you start to incorporate using thumbnail sketches in your image making process. Remember they are not for drawing details. As you can see in my thumbnail sketches there are not many details at all. Just big shapes of tone placed within the scene.

Do your best to incorporate a dark, middle tone and light into the mix. Placing a horizon line is a good habit to get into as well.

Thumbail sketches work well when combined with your inpirational sentence or image. Try a few, you’ll find they are start to becomne addicting. In short they provide you with many options visually right out of the gate.



Joie’s Sketchbook – Fast Crayola

Joie’s Sketchbook – Fast Crayola

Joie is a student currently enrolled in my foundation drawing class a the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan New York. Joie is an incredibly hard working student with a ton of drive.

Joie is really into drawing fast in a very bold way. Using crayola markers and crayon’s she has the uncanny ability to create very strong looking images that pop right off of the page.

What inspires me about Joie is that even though she truly dislikes doing quote, long tedious type drawings, she understands the importance of striving to learn new techniques.

The takeaway from Joie’s sketchbook, try new things. Don’t just do the same old same old.

This is especially important as a first year student in college. It’s really important to make experimentation a big part of your sketchbook.

Thanks Joie for sharing your work!



Check out Joie’s Instagram.¬†Thanks again Madeline for sharing your art. looking forward to the next sketchbooks.


Incorporating Inspiration Into Your Illustration Process

Incorporating Inspiration Into Your Illustration Process

I just recently finished up Lesson Two – Inspiration for my new Illustration Process course. I love this lesson because it helps to provide the illustrator with clarity.

When we are not clear on what our illustration is all about, the viewer is not clear on what our illustration is all about. That’s a bad thing. Especially if we are trying to tell stories through our art.

In this short lesson I explain to the members of Drawing Tutorials Online three techniques that have helped me to confront a white blank sheet of paper. Have you ever been there before, stuck, with no ideas. I know I certainly have.

One way to fight artist’s block is to simply write a sentence describing what your scene is all about. Writing a sentence will most certainly provide you, your model, the art director and the viewer with clarity.

This has always worked for me. It all evolved from reading manuscripts. When working on illustrating book covers there were usually two ways to get started. Read the manuscript and come up with an idea or, be told what to do by the art director.

Either way included a descriptive sentence of some sort. I like working both ways.

It was always fun to read a manuscript and discover a scene simply from reading a really descriptive sentence. Certain sentences from the manuscript would just click for me. I would have a visual in my mind immediately for what the book cover was going to look like. Ah inspiration to deal with an empty sheet of paper.

After reading many manuscripts over the years I could tell who was a descriptive writer and who wasn’t. Certain authors just had a knack for creating visuals in just a few words.

The other more direct way was being told what to do by the art director. Not much creative freedom, however there was always a sentence where the art director would explain what they wanted on the cover. That was the inspiration.



Now a sentence is just one way to get inspiration for the visual you are trying to create from scratch. What lesson two is all about is finding inspiration that will provide you with clarity on what your visual is all about.

Super important.

I cannot tell you how many times I have asked students what their image was all about. Worst answer, I don’t know. When you show your illustration to someone do they look puzzled as to what they see? Not good.

You can see where I’m going with this. Be clear on what your images are all about. This will allow you to create strong confident illustrations. When you start on a new project, write a sentence describing what the project, scene, illustration, visual is all about.

A strong illustration should convey a story in a second or two. If it doesn’t try writing a sentence for what your image is all about.

It will definitely help with your image making process.


Your Work Process

Your Work Process

Sometimes I completely forget all about my past life. I once was a full time freelance illustrator working on several book projects at one time. My life was all about creating high quality artwork under the pressure of deadlines.

Sitting down to paint for eight to ten hours in a row, then working on sketches for another project at night was commonplace. The pressure was certainly there.

I definitely had to preform, I had to keep up my quality control. If I didn’t I would loose clients. The market was flooded with many talented illustrators just waiting to take my place.

After eighteen years I had enough of deadlines. My body just couldn’t take the pressure of creating detailed paintings for extremely long periods of time. Not to mention I had completely lost interest in the subject matter that I was painting.

That is when I decided to put my talents elsewhere. That elsewhere was Drawing Tutorials Online. In essence I created my own publishing company. I created my own softer deadlines. I also worked on a subject matter that I become obsessed with, the figure.

This year will mark Drawing Tutorials Online’s tenth year anniversary. During the past nine plus years I have certainly critiqued a lot of member art in our critique gallery.

I have been critiquing some individual members for well over five years. I have seen much growth and I have seen much disappointment. Some members just have such a hard time improving. They take two steps forward then three steps back.



What I’ve discovered is that the members who struggle with creating finished art have absolutely no process for creating high quality artwork time and time again.

Now I do not mean creating a gesture drawing in life class, I mean creating a finished product. That could be a finished portrait, a portfolio piece for a gallery show or any image that takes time to complete. Not a rough sketch.

So I decided to finally teach my illustration process from start to finish. I never gave much thought to teaching my process for illustration. However I’ve noticed over the last couple of years it’s really needed.

Even if you are not looking to become a professional illustrator it’s really important to recognize that you need a process or system to create consistently good artwork time and time again.

Let’s face it our time is limited. Who wants to waste their Saturday working on a piece of art only to realize on Sunday that it totally does not work. That’s where frustration comes into play. We all know that frustration kills momentum.

If you are looking to end any frustration you have been experiencing with creating your art, I encourage you to start thinking about your process.

Currently I’m in the midst of creating a thirteen part “Process” course over in the members area of Drawing Tutorials Online.

In this new “Process” course I will create a finished illustration detailing my entire process from start to finsh. I mean everything from thumbnail sketches to review notes.

Now of course I do not expect every member to use my exact work process. That’s not the point of the course. I’m just trying to show members that creating consistently good artwork do not happen by accident.

If this sounds interesting to you definitely consider a membership to Drawing Tutorials Online. My main goal for the website is to help members create better art, period. A system will certainly help you with that.

Thanks for reading! Now get started immediately with improving your work process.


Emily’s Sketchbook – Italian Inspired

Emily’s Sketchbook – Italian Inspired

Emily is a student currently enrolled in my foundation drawing class at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan New York. Emily certainly brings a ton of energy into the classroom.

What I like most about Emily’s sketchbook is her originality. I like so much that she expresses how she is feeling through her drawings.

For instance how she drew the pain she was feeling with a terrible headache is pretty incredible. When I have a headache I just want to crawl up in bed. Plus drawing her dreams is pretty cool too.

I really do see a ton of improvement in Emily’s drawings midway through the sketchbook video. Her black ballpoint pen line is amazing.

I hope you enjoyed looking through Emily’s sketchbook drawings. I certainly did.



Check out Emily’s Instagram. Thanks again Emily for sharing your art. Looking forward to the next sketchbook.

Learn more about a membership to Drawing Tutorials Online.