ADN 481: Digital Painting and Drawing
Class Discussion of Drawing, Painting, Digital Imaging, and the Creative Process

July 2024
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End of Semester Work
Filed under: Light and Color, Digital Imaging, Creative Process, Draw/Paint, Shot Design, Experiments, General
Posted by: mfreema @ 8:35 am

The end of the semester is quickly approaching. Below is a list of what you will need to submit for your final project and CD.

All Work must be submitted to me personally or placed in Patrick FitzGerald’s box by 5:00 Wednesday, April 30th. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Work to be submitted:

Below is a detailed description of what should be on the CD:
Create a folder with your name on it on the CD.
Inside that folder, create the following folders:

Inside the Final Panels Folder include the following:
Inside the Process Book Folder include the following:
A .pdf process book that gives the pitch for your narrative and development process. It should include the following content on separate pages:

  1. Title Page
  2. Written Pitch for your story
  3. Reference/ Inspiration Images
  4. List of Major Story Beats
  5. Environment Sketches
  6. Character Silhouettes and Character Design Process
  7. Character Turnarounds
  8. Storyboard Thumbnails and Color Studies.
  9. Final Three Page Layout of Finished Panels

In the Archive Folder include original high-resolution files for all work submitted in the Process Book.
These files should be organized in sub-folders with the following names:

On Monday, I will give a short tutorial on organizing your Process Book layout with Adobe Indesign to create the .pdf. If for any reason you are unable to work with Indesign, you can also use layer comps to create the PDF in Photoshop as previously shown in class. I urge you to have your content for the process book ready for Monday. It will not take more that 30 minutes to create the PDF in InDesign if you have everything already in organized in folders. You can also easily update it, if you need to make changes. Text should be in a .doc file or Text Edit File. We will discuss printing on Monday and Wednesday as well.

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Storyboard Panel Layouts
Filed under: Light and Color
Posted by: mfreema @ 3:23 pm

Storyboard Panel Layouts: Due Monday, March 31st

Complete the layout for your storyboard panels in three pages. Each page should have approximately five panels. Sketch out the story and create quick value comps of them on a separate layer. When you are finished with the first pass of your story layout, look at how your story flows and eliminate, add, or revise panels as needed. These drawings along with your completed turnarounds are due on Monday, March 31st.

Monday and Wednesday we will be working to create color versions of your thumbnails and finalize revisions on your storyboard layout. The final color comps will be due on Monday, April 7th. The size of your completed panels will be 6.5″ x 9″ at 300 dpi but for your comps and layouts you can work at 1/2 or 1/4 of the final size.

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Current and Upcoming Work #2
Filed under: Light and Color, Draw/Paint
Posted by: mfreema @ 3:53 pm


Due Wednesday

For homework you should revise the value studies that you have created in class by considering effective lighting strategies and value lighting considerations. For instance the “1,2, 3 read” that we discussed in class, the angle of surfaces in relation to the light source, light fall-off or decay, reflected light, ambient light, and specular light should all be considered. Also each of your images should include cast shadows that clearly indicate the position of your light source. I will be posting extra examples on-line soon.

In addition, start creating the first pass of thumbnails or variations of the primary characters for your narrative. Before you begin drawing, read the pages 19-48 in Digital Character Design and Painting and consider them in development of your character.


Turn in your final primitive value studies. These should be completed print resolution renderings (at 300 DPI). We will discuss sizes for these in class.

Due Monday, complete your second pass of character designs in the form of silhouettes and value sketches. You will present these to me individually in class.


Turn in all primitive value studies.

Complete the color versions of the primitives after we discuss light and color in class.

Begin working on color turn-arounds of your character.


Class work-day. Make revisions on color primitives and continue working on print-ready character sheet and turn-arounds for Monday, March 24th.


Plan all panels for the pages of the including shot designs, value comps, and color scripts. These should be completed and presentation ready for Monday, March 31st.

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Story Outlines
Filed under: Creative Process, General
Posted by: mfreema @ 7:43 am

Create two outlines of events as listed below:

Due Monday, March 17th

Create an essential list of the major events in your narrative that  convey the general story-line. No less than 3 events or more than 10 events should be included on the list.

Create a second list which tells your story in 30 events. This should be an exact number. You may need to clarify parts of the story to have enough events or eliminate less significant events to arrive at this number.

Please number each item on the list.

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Current and Upcoming Work
Filed under: Draw/Paint, Shot Design, General
Posted by: mfreema @ 2:41 pm

Due Wednesday, Feb 20th:

For Wednesday, you should have a grayscale version of your chosen shot from one of the value studies of your environment that you have decided to work with. In that image, you should begin to refine it by adding general areas of light, shadow, indications of surfaces that are different values (local values), and have started to define any important details. You will soon be developing this image into a finished vector drawing.

In-Class Wednesday, Feb 20th:

At the beginning of class Wednesday, we will watch Feng Zhu’s perspective and shot design demo. Afterward, I will go over converting your Photoshop sketches to vector artwork. You should have all of your initial thumbnails/value studies finished (that is a hard deadline since they were actually due Monday).

Due Monday, Feb 25th:

You should be more than halfway done with the vector versions of your environment and ready to show them in class. You should also be prepared for the in-class pitch for your narrative as described below.

In-Class Monday, Feb 25th:

On Monday, each of you will give a short pitch (3-5 minutes) about the fairy tale that you have chosen and your take on it. You should describe the original story briefly, along with any changes that you are planning to make to the characters, time, place, or story line. Also, describe the visual style or feel of the environment. You can still make changes afterward but your talk should outline your general direction. The presentation will be brief, so please prepare for it and be concise in your descriptions. Be prepared to talk about your work but also give visual examples that you have found elsewhere and that you have generated. Also document, idea your idea with a written paragraph. (MS Word or Text Edit Files are fine.)

During that same talk you will show the current vector versions of the environments that you are working on. This will be a soft crit. Simply talk about your progress.

Wednesday, Feb 27th:

Wednesday, will be a hard crit on the vector versions of your environment drawings with some time for final tweaks. Afterwards, we will be moving on to another part of the project. Over the weekend, you will have a reading assignment and a character assignment (TBA).

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Fairy Tale Environment Design
Filed under: Shot Design, General
Posted by: mfreema @ 1:04 am

We are beginning a project in which we will be developing the concept design and a series of images for a narrative that is based on a fairy tale that you will choose to work with. Examples might be Rumpelstiltskin, Hansel and Gretel, The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks, and Jack and the Beanstalk. You will use the story line as the basis for your narrative and images, however, your final work should be a personal reinterpretation of the original story. For instance, the three little pigs don’t need to be pigs, Little Red Riding Hood may be set in another environment besides a forest, Rumpelstiltskin may be set in a different time. Invent or reinvent, the characters, time, place, and even the essential relationships between the characters. As with many of our projects, the story-line and characters will evolve through both planning and through the process of making. Your drawings and digital paintings, should be exploratory. Even though you may be making finished drawings. Use that process to generate and refine your ideas.  

The first part of the project involves creating an environment for your characters to exist. Use 1-Point perspective to create value sketches that describe your environment. Make sure that you have a clear foreground, middle-ground and background in your scene. Value and silhouettes should be emphasized instead of line as objects in the environment recede. Work small so that you are looking at the overall compositions and essential shape relationships. In some cases you may need to do separate drawings of the objects in your environment to develop features and clarify their silhouettes.

By Monday, February 18th you should have 5-10 value sketches of the environment (feel free to do more). If the drawings are more refined and complex, then 5 images are fine. Create 10 images for average studies, and 20 or more for simpler studies. See the examples in the link below to get a sense of what I mean by drawings with “average involvement”.

You may also find several other tutorials on examples on digital painting throughout this site. This is one site of many that I am suggesting as a great resource for digital painting and concept design.

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Video Assignment List
Filed under: Light and Color
Posted by: mfreema @ 9:07 am

These are the videos that have been assigned so far:

•Ilustrator CS3 One-on-One: The Essentials
Chapter 7
Due Monday 1/28/07

•Photoshop Channels and Masks: The Essentials
Chapter 2
Due Monday 2/4/08

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Project 2: Descriptive Environment
Filed under: Light and Color
Posted by: mfreema @ 8:40 am

assets, patterns, brushes, and alphas example #1

assets, patterns, brushes, and alphas example #2

Channels and Masks and Building with Assets

For our next assignment you will be creating an environment that is inspired by one of  the descriptions below. The environment will be created in black and white using primarily patterns, masks, and silhouetted shapes. You will be exploring alpha channels, vectors, custom brushes, selection tools and basic blending modes. Rather than beginning with sketches of the environment you will construct the environment from ready-made elements. Using and adjusting carefully selected pre-made components can help to create continuity in your designs as well as allow you to build very complex images in a short period of time. 

Environment Descriptions:
    •    Cute and Cuddly
    •    Eerie
    •    Graceful and Serene

For the initial part of the project you will you will develop several elements so that you have a library of assets. Do not worry as much about the final image yet. Work on creating assets that have characteristics that convey the description that you chose from above. Remember creating assets is a part of the design process. Try to create well designed assets since they will affect the outcome of your final image.

These are the assets that you will need. However, you are welcome to create and use more.

5 Texture brushes
5 Shape brushes
5 Photographic textures
5 Vector shapes
5 Compound Shapes/ and textures ( shapes and textures that are an intersection, subtraction, or addition of two or more elements)
5 Alpha channels of patterns that you create
5 Shape silhouettes saved as alpha channels

Create a tool preset that contains all of your brushes. Organize them with the shape brushes first and then the texture brushes. Create a folder for your original alphas.
Create a folder with your original photographs and your images that are prepared for black and white patterns.
All of your vector shapes should be on a single illustrator page.
Save your Compound Shapes as an alpha Channel along with the other channel images

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Modes of Seeing
Filed under: Draw/Paint, General
Posted by: mfreema @ 5:17 pm

Try standing inside a public place for a while and just listen. Try listening to a conversation. Then listen for the sounds of objects that are moved or dropped. Listen to see if you can hear a clock ticking in the background, the hum of the lights in the room, the air conditioner, or something outside. Of course all of these things were making noise before you chose to listen for them, but the moment you consciously began to listen you became more aware of sound. You were hearing, but you may not have been actively listening. Then, as you listened to the conversation, the ticking clock, or noise outside, you were able to focus selectively on them. You were listening for different things. We can’t be aware of all things at all times but we can shift our attention and change the types of things of which we are aware.

Seeing is no different. We can have our eyes open but not be in a state where we are actively seeing. Likewise we can choose to focus on particular things or a particular range of things.  Learning to draw is less about hand skills and more about actively seeing, or choosing what to see and what range of relationships to be aware of. The ability to shift one’s perceptual focus is a valuable asset in drawing and painting. Furthermore, drawing requires translating those relationships onto a 2-dimensional plane surface in the form points, lines, shapes, textures, value, and color.

Below is a list of 5 basic drawing approaches that are closely connected with a set of perceptual skills. We will be discussing these approaches throughout the course. In each approach the artist is primarily actively searching for and manipulating specific visual relationships:

(1) Evaluation of 2-Dimensional Linear Relationships: Primarily concerned with horizontal, vertical, and diagonal relationships between points, including relative measurements and proportion.

(2) Intuitive Linear Gesture: Primarily concerned with interrelated rhythmic movements and paths of action.

(3) Linear Perspective: Primarily concerned with conceptual aspects of three-dimensional forms as they recede in depth along lines of convergence.

(4) Mass Drawing: Primarily concerned with general shapes and thinking in terms of the area that something takes up in our field of vision or on the picture plane, as well as visualizing the negative spaces that surround them.

(5) Tonal Drawing: Primarily concerned with contrasts in value and how changes in light suggest changes in form.

A common way to handle a complex problem with varied parts and relationships is to break it down in to discrete manageable parts. By isolating these components of drawing, over time you can develop your ability to recognize these relationships and develop your perceptual skills.  Through continual practice you will soon easily shift from one mode of seeing to the next in a way that is intuitive, fluid, and natural.

In future posts, we will discuss these modes in more depth as well as related drawing techniques that help to develop perceptual skills.

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Generate and Cull
Filed under: Creative Process, General
Posted by: mfreema @ 5:15 pm

When I go shopping for something, I like to collect all of the versions of them in the store, lay them out and narrow them down. You might hear me quietly talking to myself with statements like these:

“This one is too expensive, this one is too cheap, I like the features on this one and this one, but this one kind of does both. Another may have a better warranty, but I trust this brand.”

The best choice isn’t always an obvious decision. Sometimes it is nuanced and requires that you are able to compare all of your choices at the same time. After going through that process, you will be more aware of your options and be able to make more informed decisions.

A basic design strategy is to generate-and-cull. In this process, to generate is to produce a set of solutions and to cull is to reduce their number through a process of selection. Simply put, it is a two-part process that you begin by creating or finding a broad range of ideas or solutions, and lay them out together to analyze and select the designs that work the best. This strategy is most effective at the beginning of the creative process. However, it can be used throughout your projects or on a continual basis.

Of course for practical reasons, you need to work in a way that allows you to quickly generate a large number of solutions. Thumbnail drawings are commonly used because they can quickly convey a sense of the whole design and it only takes a few minutes to produce several of them. It is not uncommon to produce anywhere between 100 and 200 thumbnail sketches to hash out ideas for a project. Some painters may create nearly 100 paintings to stimulate ideas for a single work, or instead select a few of the more successful pieces as final works and destroy or recycle the others. By generating more work and selecting the best of the bunch, these artists also take the pressure off of having to produce a masterpiece each time he or she steps up to the canvas.

There are several benefits to the production and analysis stages as well. You spend more time “thinking while making” rather than planning. Engaging in making and doing stimulates creativity, especially if you feel you have artist’s or designer’s block. The result is a visual record of your creative process. Consequently, you also open yourself up to more experimentation and new ways of approaching your work. In the analysis stage you aren’t as concerned with getting a shaky idea to work, but instead you can survey all of your ideas at once and weigh the strengths and weakness of one design against another, or mix and match elements of each. The creative process is both an analytical and intuitive process. Your first response is usually an intuitive response, at which point you can begin to articulate why one approach is more effective or suitable than another. As you clarify your creative goals by comparing and contrasting ideas, you will improve your understanding of your current creative decisions. In turn, it will help to improve your work, your ability to articulate both your concept and your creative choices.  Likewise, developing the habit of broadening the number of solutions that you produce in projects will greatly increase your creative range over time.

The advantages of generating and culling during your creative process is that helps you to:

(1) Work through a number of ideas fairly quickly
(2) Compare and contrast their strengths, weaknesses, and overall feel
(3) Develop a more nuanced perspective about what you want the work to accomplish
(4) Articulate your creative direction more effectively
(5) Take chances and make less predictable or safe choices
(6) Increase the range of ideas that you come up with
(6) Reduce the stress of putting all of your eggs in one basket

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Intro to Speculative Drawing
Filed under: Creative Process, Draw/Paint, General
Posted by: mfreema @ 5:10 pm

How do you draw what you have never seen before? Have you ever spent time staring into the clouds while naming objects, places, and things as the clouds form new configuration. Have you ever tried to make shadow puppets on the walls with your hands? I’m sure you have tried at least one of these as a kid. Looking at abstract forms and creating relationships between what is in front of you and what you have the ability to visualize is a core process in speculative drawing.

Speculative drawing is simply a process of finding, recognizing, or generating forms as you search for design possibilities. In most cases you don’t have everything worked out in an image before it is translated into a drawing or painting. You may have an impression of what you want but these visual impression are often fleeting and difficult to consider as a whole. However, your marks are certain and once they are recorded on paper (or by other means) they remain for you to consider, analyze, and revise  them. Chances are, unless it is some type of divine act, clouds are not really forming the objects that you interpret them to be. However, the variety and ambiguity of their shapes lend them to being interpreted in multiple ways. They are themselves physical things that we recognize and can name but through their abstract shapes they suggest other forms.  They also can be a mirror to the way that you resolve forms because it is you who essentially makes the forms and associations not them.

The human mind naturally tries to make sense of abstract form. Consequently, observing or manipulating abstract forms can lead to ideas for representational imagery. Exercise your creative ability to discover original design solutions and form ideas by beginning with abstract forms. You may find that it helps you to break out of cliches that you have developed over time. Anything can be valid approach to creating base forms such as blobs of ink,  a series of gestural lines, folded sheets of paper, irregularities in wood grain, or cracks in a sidewalk.

On some level, all drawings are both abstract and representational but when classifying works as representational or abstract this loose interpretation is not very helpful. Likewise, most drawings involve speculative drawing but some would be better specifically classified as speculative drawing than others. For our purposes, speculative drawing is the intentional search for or generation of abstract relationships in order to stimulate creative thinking, discover new design solutions, or invent new forms.

On one hand, speculative drawing is a natural component of the drawing process used in tandem with other ways of working to help you massage your elements into what you feel are the right relationships as you work. Even if you are drawing something in a fairly deliberate manner, your marks in the process of drawing and elements that are already laid down can and should actively influence your design decisions. On the other hand, when pushed, speculative drawing can be used as a separate method of working in order to generate forms as an initial part of the creative process.  It is a natural part of the drawing process but you can emphasize it in such a way that it enhances your ability to generate forms, design solutions, and increase your flexibility as an artist and designer.

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