I Published an e-book!

A few years I ago I started writing a story for an anthology based on Australian Fairy Tales. The theme was facinating and I decided to write mine based on a tale called “The Giant Who Had No Heart In Its Body”. I was really engaged and kept fleshing out the characters and the world. By this time I wrote beyond the word count and restrictions for the anthology, but decided to keep writing the story for myself.

Like many other writers, I would write, edit it, and put it away and work on other things, until I could resolve things and return to make make the story cleaner.

This project extended into animation as well. I’m a visual thinker, so I always draw when I write to help me visualise the characters and story. As this was happening, I wondered, What would this story look like as an animation? I played around designing different elements of the story.

Creating a full animated feature is incredibly expensive and time consuming. I felt that it would be unreasonable to make a secondary project bigger than the main project (writing), so I narrowed my scope into designing a trailer animation that captured key elements of the story and could serve to support the writing. From there, I drew some storyboards of interesting scenes from the book and arranged them into an animatic.

My friend Thandi, a professional journalist, came to visit me one day and did some voice recording for me. Not only is she one of the funnest people in the world, but Thandi is an incredible voice talent! I asked her to channel her inner ABC news reader and she knocked it out of the park and did a great recording in two takes.

After that, I drew casually. I saw this animated project as an experiment. I didn’t want to commit too much time and energy to it, yet I also wanted to get better at animating with more details. I experimented with shadows, lighting and time of day, paraellaxing and adding dimention to flat drawings, and experimenting with ‘glitch-y’ old tv aesthetics, which I’ve been incorporating into my still illustrations.

Some of the storyboards changed, others stayed the same. I stayed flexible to new ideas and adapting for better flow and timing.

Finishing the animation actually inspired me to look at the story again. In someways I can be a perfectionist. I realised that I can continue to edit and change this story for forever, or accept that it’s finished and release it into the world. With that I looked up e-publishing options.

I had perviously gone with self-publishing for physical books, but that cost over $13,000 at the time. I wasn’t happy with the previous publishing company and wanted a easier route. I’ve never done e-book publishing on my own before, but I figured that I’d give it a go and try. (as opposed to never trying). Long story short, I finally finished another story (yay!)

While hiking with her brothers, Jordan gets lost in the Australian bush, only to later discover that they were turned to stone by a Giantess. Aided by Timberland, a boy kept prisoner by the Giantess, the two search for the villainesses’ heart and the source of her power in order to revive her brothers. This Australian fantasy story is based on a the Scandinavian fairy tale, “The Giant Who Had No Heart in its Body”, which was included in a collection called “East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Old Tales from the North.”

The Giant’s heart

Here is the final animated trailer. Please have a look and tell me what you think.

Here are the links to e-book as well. I’d appreciate it if you could buy a copy and help get it ranked higher on the maket place. If you like it, please leave a review and let me know.

Other Videos –> WORK IN PROGRESS:

Making an Arty Sketch Book – ART VLOG

I recently used up all the pages of my first hand bound sketch book, and decided to make a new one.

I’ve been working on this project for a while now (due to crazy life stuff) and finally finished it off this week. The book itself has a similar design to the first, (mainly because I wanted to use the suade fabric and not waste it). However, I also wanted to push my creativity. Instead of drawing the cover design, like I did with the previous one, I wanted to experiment by sculpting it.

CLICK to view.

I recorded some of the processes and made an Art Vlog video. Please have a look. Some of the videos were recorded live via live streaming, some with my iPhone. I couldn’t record everything due to needing to concentrate on the task at hand, but hopefully the write up below explains anything I missed out from the video.

Paper:

I dyed some heavy paper stock (A4 sized, 200gsm) in a mixure of tea, coffee and bicarb soda. Then I dried each page in the oven. I really like this decorative touch. The pages get dark coffee stains and burn lines from the oven racks making each of them look unique and different. I really love this. Pure white paper sometimes intimidates me. When the paper is too clean and precious, it can stop you from experimenting, but when the paper is already marked and soiled, it takes the pressure off of being perfect and it allows you to experiment and be more relaxed when sketching. At least, that’s how I feel.

Binding:

The book binding process is still a bit challenging for me. I’m not at the stage where I can bind by heart and still need to use tutorials for reference. Book binding is a very specialised craft that takes a lot of practice to master. I don’t feel bad about not being perfect. Compared to my previous books, I think this one came out more refined. In comparison to my previous attempts, I’ve definitly improved.

Cover:

The materials for the cover were left overs from my first book, (the cardstock and suade fabric). Instead of wasting the resources, I decided to use the same materials, and adapt my design to suit them. I used an A4 piece of paper as a template and added a few milimeters around it. For the spine I measured the width of the text block, and glued everything together. During all stages of the process, I kept putting the paper back into my home made book press to squish the paper down. I think one of the major time eaters of this project was waiting for things to dry and sit in the paper press.

Decorative Design:

Last year I went to the aquarium and was inspired by a clown fish I saw, especially since the reef was lit up with a black light and made everything underwater look neon. I first drew up a sketch of how I wanted the cover to look and used it as the base. When I was ready to sculpt, I put a piece of baking paper on top of the sketch to protect it. I used Super Sculpty to follow the design and shape of the anemone, clown fish and shells. I think Super Sculpty is the best clay to use for detailed sculpting. Even thought it’s more expensive than its competetors, I think the price is worth it. When making the 3D rock shapes, I used aluminium foil to make the basic shape, then I added clay on top. This technique allows you to make your sculptures lighter and not use too much clay. I also used an assortment of clay shaping tools that I bought from a dollar shop. It’s possible to shape clay with your hands alone, but it becomes more difficult to refine the details. Unlike the clay, I don’t think brand name matters as much when it comes to the tools.

I probably spent about 4 hours sculpting. Depending on the layers, you may have to bake the clay several times before you’re happy with the result. Then I used a black acrylic paint mixed with some quick drying medium to paint all the layers. Once that was dried, I used acrylic paints to paint the colours. I added some metalic gold dry bushing to make it match the neon colours from the aquarium and then used some glittery nail polish on the tips of the anemone and shells to give them some more detail.

Once all the decorations were done I used some strong two parts resin glue. Because of the difference in materials, it was important to choose a very strong clue to make sure the parts stuck to the suade cover well.

Reflection:

I used some thin decorative craft paper for the inside of the book cover. However, the paper dried a bit wrinkly, which was due to the book changing position when it opens and closes. Next time, I may have to pay better attention to how the paper dries to avoid this issue.

The cover decorations look amazing. I feel a bit nervous putting it in my backpack like my previous notebooks incase it gets damaged, so it’s just been in my room for now. As I start using this sketch book more often, I’ll have a chance to see how well the decorative pieces can restist constant wear.

What I do know from my first book is that it feels so special to have my own hand made sketch books. I feel so proud and inspired when I use them, which is so different to using store bought books. I like to use my sketch books as personal diaries so the book themselves end up contributing to my history as well.

How to Make Speed Drawing Videos for Beginners – Using Quicktime

About 2 years ago I started making digital speed drawing videos on youtube. I wanted to record my art years before, but felt limited by my lack of technology. In fact, my first speed drawing video was taken using a go-pro type camera and a desk lamp. At the time, I felt intimidated by the lack of quality of my first video and it took me about 2 more years before I had the courage to record my art again.

After lots of research, trial and error, I have since learnt how to record my art making process, both digitally and traditionally, and have since upgraded my video editing softwares and equipment to make more professional videos.

However, because of COVID restrictions in Australia, I haven’t been able to go back to my apartment or use my recording normal recording equipment for a few months, and only have my laptop with me. (I’m currently in 2 weeks isolation in a hotel waiting to go back home, as I write this article.)

With my limited resources, I’m reminded of when I first started making videos using my laptop and free softwares. Because of this I felt inspired to make a video tutorial on how to create digital speed painting videos for beginners using softwares such as Quicktime and iMovie. Though this video is aimed at digital artist, the processes can be used by anyone wanting to record their computer screen for things such as explaining their digital processes, online teaching and more.

My laptop is a Macbook Pro and used iMovie as its default video editing program. However, Windows has Window’s Movie Maker, which is a free video editing software and can be used in place of iMovie.

Hopefully this tutorial is helpful for those wanting to get started in making speed drawing videos, or screen recording videos.

CLICK the video below to watch the tutorial:

ART & VIDEO:

Website: http://www.jess-mcl.com
Youtube: @Rocket Child
https://www.youtube.com/c/RocketChild
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Facebook: @rocket1111child
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Making Mixed Media Decorative Plates – Art Process

This project was experimental and took many months to complete. This is a journal explaining my creative process experimenting to find the best solution.

THE IDEA:

One day I saw some plates in my grandparent’s antique shop by the 20th century Danish artist Bjorn Wiinblad, who specialised in whimsical fairy tale styled ceramics and was captivated by them. The plates had such a unique style and had their own stories within them. I felt inspired and wanted to make something like that in my own way.

At first, I considered getting unfired pre-glazed plates and etching my designs into them, but I didn’t know where to source them. I took ceramic classes in university when I did my undergrad where I had access to the kiln, specialty equipment, supplies and experts. But outside of that world, it’s very dificult to do ceramics especially since it’s not my speciality.

This was at the start of 2020 and the world had just gone into lockdown because of COVID-19. Therefore, going to an external ceramics studio was not an option anymore. I changed my approach. Instead of creating something that was pure ceramics, I thought, ‘why don’t I try something experimental using other techniques?’

DESIGNING:

WATCH to see how the drawing was made…
WATCH to see how the drawing was made…

Since I specialise in digital art and drawing, I first experimented with creating narative illustrations in the shape of plates. Because I was using Photoshop to draw, I had the flexibility to sample different colours and effects to achieve my desired outcome.

I made five plate designs in total. For the theme, I took inspiration from my novel “The Wish Bringer” and characters from my upcoming books.

WATCH to see how the drawing was made…

The first three plates, Lapis and the Dream Girl; The Gem Forger; The Dream Girl, were heavly stylised from the references. The colour choices were very minimal and the skin was left white to match the colour of unpainted porcelain. I drew the facial features with black armond shaped eyes, bigger noses and tiny mouths.

Once I got used to this new stylistic approach, I tried new techniques for the other two designs. The Time Jumper‘s design was based on a character who could travel in time. I wanted the image to have more energy and movement than the previous designs. For this work I was ‘thinking like an animator’ and designed the background to look like it was distorted from motion.

The final plate design, Boy and the Beast, has a different style again. Before lockdowns, I went to the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra and saw a painting that was in Pointillism style. (Applying small strokes of colour that blend together and look cohesive from a distance.) It looked like such an interesting technique that I wanted to try it myself. The story in this plate is about a boy who is able to tame beasts and monsters, so I used the pointillism technique to give the Beast’s fur a mystical texture that would set it appart from other types of animals.

The illustrations looked fine on their own, but I still wanted to make them into real 3D plates, but first, I had to plan and experiment a lot to accommodate my access to materials and working spaces.

PROCESS:

CLICK on the video to see the full documented process of how I made the mixed media plates
  • I bought some ready-made dinner plates and measured the diameter.
  • Then, I printed the coloured illustrations acording to the dimentions on a sticker adhesive paper.
  • After cleaning the plates properly, I removed some of the backing paper in the center and aligned the design.
  • Starting from the centre, I stuck the design down.
  • Because of the curved shapre of the plates, I had to make cuts around the paper so the design would sit flat.
  • Once the design was in place, I sprayed it with a setting spray to preserve the design.

  • Using tweezers and glue, I carefully placed down sequins to add dimention and dusted glitter to enhance areas of the design.
  • After that, I went around the plate rims with gold paint.
  • Once the details were finished, I mixed up liquid resin with different shades of glitter and sealed off the plates.
  • Because of the curved shape of the plates, the resign would always pool at the bottom, therefore I kept having to work in multiple thin layers and turn the plates often so the sides would be coated well.
  • Each resin coat had different types of glitter and they built up shimmering layers that added holographic effects to each work.

Problems I faced included: I was working in winter, so the resin wouldn’t cure properly. (I had to calculate using extra hardner to compensate.) I also live in a small appartment, meaning that it was toxic working with the chemicals without proper ventilation. I made sure to use gloves, an apron and facemask when working and would often put the plates in my shower with the ceiling fan on or would put them on the balcony when I slept so I wouldn’t breath the fumes, (despite the weather being too cold.) The process took a lot longer because of these challenges and would have been better in a more controled work environment.

Once the fronts were finished, I painted the back of the plates black and sealed them in resin as well, this was to provide a strong contrast so the fronts could stand out without distraction. In order to present them, I got some deep, square sized picture frames in white and glued the plates to them. The white colour unifies the series and provides a clean backdrop so the bright colours and textures of the plates can really stand out well.

The frames allow the plates to be displayed in a elegant way like 3D paintings that can be displayed on shelves or hung on walls. The plates are so shiny and holographic from the different layers of resin and glitter that when you see them in real life, you have to move your head around and see them from different angles to appreciate the textures. You many wonder, why I painted the backs if you cant see them, but because the plates are 3D, when you look at them from the side, you can see the back. Even it’s a tiny bit, the detail helps.

In the end, I’m happy with the outcome. There are areas where I could improve. However, in relation to the challenges and obsticles I faced, I think the results were good. I believe that the nature of experimentation is trying new things without knowing the exact results, so having a few errors is part of the charm. I think what’s more important, is being inspired to create and turning that inspiration into fuel to make something new. One day, I could try making cermaic plates, though it doesn’t really matter. I just go where ever the inspiration flows~

Converting an Old TV into a Crystal Display Case

This article is acompanied by a video:

A few years ago, I found an old TV at my Granny’s house. I tried to turn it on, but the technology was so out dated that there wasn’t even a power socket to connect. It seemed a shame to throw out. I really liked the look of it and wanted to give it a new life. The desplay screen on the inside was like a giant lightbulb, and there were no imput holes to plug in a computer. I’m not a trained electronics person to mess with that stuff, so my next thought was to install a small tablet on the inside and keep the TV box shell for cosmetic purposes.

However, there were complications with the screen I bought, and I wasn’t able to use it in the end. After thinking for a while, I realised that I had a lot of crystals in storage from when I used them as decorations at the book launch for my novel “The Wish Bringer”. I realised that I could use the TV shell as a display case to store the crystals. First I removed the electrical components, cleaned all the parts and spray painted the case red (to match my other red decore). Using recycled cardboard, I made a small ramp to place inside and covered it with fabric, that way the crystals at the back can be seen, and placed some battery powered fairy lights inside to complete the look. The batteries run out very quickly, so maybe in the future it would be wise to change them out for outlet ones, but other than that, I’m very please with this project. It’s been a few years already since I made this cusomisation. However, everytime I look at it, it gives me joy and pride for making such a one of a kind piece. It’s also a good example of repurposing something that would’ve been thrown away and making something inspiring out of it.

3 Ways to Use Models as Reference Animation & Comics

Drawing backgrounds and different angles are often challenges for artist, which include animators, storyboarders, comic artists and mangaka to name a few. I’ve come up with 3 easy ways to help and take your art to the next level. Using Dolls and Toys, Making Paper background Models, and Using Digital 3d software and games

This article is accompanied by a video tutorial:

Using Dolls and Toys

When wanting to draw characters from different angles, it’s useful to use posable dolls as reference. In the example below, I wanted to draw a cut where a knight was charging towards another knight on his horse. I also wanted the ‘camera’ to pan around the character as he ran to make the shot more dynamic. Drawing the charging scene itself is a challenge, because horses are difficult to draw for most people. However, drawing a camera pan really adds another layer of complexity to the design.

I got a posable Harry Potter doll and sat him upon a horse statue with a pencil in his hand, placed them on top of a Lazy Suzan turn table and took videos from different angles and positions. I then used a dragon shaped piggy bank over to the side as scale reference.

This is solution is extremely easy and cheap to re-create. I didn’t need reference for details, so it didn’t matter to me what kind of toy I used as long as I could move the limbs to the position I liked. Artists are known for using the wooden mannequins as pose reference. However, some toys have a lot more articulation and have the added benefits of coming with face, hair and clothes, which gives you more points of reference.

After that, I can import the footage to my computer and watch it in slow motion to study the poses. Depending on your artistic style, you can copy the poses in your own style, or draw directly over the videos and rotoscope it.

Making Paper background Models

When I was a little kid, I remember making paper doll houses with my cousin Stephie. The process was extremely easy, all you had to do was fold paper to make boxes and trays. This became the inspiration for the next process.

Drawing backgrounds to scale is a real skill. I’ve read plenty of books and know the formular of how to draw perspective, but let’s face it, drawing accurate perspective is BORING. Haha, (soz background artists :p). Here is another very easy way to create reference that you can use multiple times for backgrounds and settings.

In this example, I wanted to draw the inside cloister of a cathedral. The architecture is very repetitive in that there are arches, symmetrical windows and columns. While it is possible to copy photos and have a still background image, what if you want to walk down the halls or see the corridors from different perspectives? The answer is having a 3D model where you can go around it from all angles!

To do this, I went into photoshop and made an A4 canvas (the size of my printer paper), and on the long plane, I drew the basic shapes of the corridor. I drew an arch with symmetrical windows and columns and copy and pasted them next to each other. Using the ruler tool, I made rectangle and square shapes as guides. That way I could print out the shapes, cut along the dotted line and glue the parts together. I made several of these rectangular cuboids and placed them in the position I wanted. I placed the models on top of my cutting mat, which had a grid on it. Using the grid can be useful too because it shows the lines moving towards the Vanishing Point, which can be an extra point of reference. After that I used a Go-Pro type camera with a warped fish-eye lens to go down the corridors. (You can just as easily use your phone or webcam to do the same thing.)

In the same method above, you can export the footage to your computer and use the shots for reference by copying the footage or rotoscoping it.

BONUS TIP: If you want to draw a scene in different times of the day, or with special lighting, you can position desk lamps around your models and study the way light and shadow hits them.

Using Digital 3d software and games

This method is a bit more difficult, because it depends on having extra skills and computer software. If you know how to do it, you can create 3D models on a digital animation software and use that as reference. I personally, I can’t use 3D software, because I get motion sickness. Instead, I use the Sims 4 to help create scenarios. In the Sims you can create houses and buildings and have your Sim character perform actions like dancing or eating. You can either take screenshots or using a screen capture software, record what’s happening. This can be useful for everyday life scenarios. However, if you want something more complex, like a plane taking off, you wouldn’t be able to do that seeing as there are restrictions within the game. Though, if you are making a fantasy type story, you could always use a fantasy style 3D game as reference too.

WARNING: I’ve noticed that a lot of Webtoon/ webcomic artists have been using Google Sketch Up in their comics. However, instead of using it as reference, they have been tracing over the shape in such a precise way that the backgrounds end up looking very boring. I would suggest that you use these methods as guidelines, but to

Painting a TAMBORINE – Tutorial

Last year, I was facinated in painting unconventional items, such as instruments. In December I custom painted this adorable tamborine inspired by Stevie Nicks. The video below goes through a very detailed process, which includes: masking and priming the surface, transfering the design using carbon transfer technique, painting the design using acrylic paint and paint markers, fixing mistakes and damaged areas, and sealing the paint.

For those that are familiar with my Youtube Channel, I normally post videos showing digital art. In comparison, painting real objects needs a lot more time and space to not only prepare the materials, but also to prepare the space and lighting to record. Because of these extra factors, I created and used a special camera rig to use with recording traditional art and physical objects. I make blog post earlier on how I designed and made it, if you’re interesed in making one.

Please CLICK on the video below to see the full tutorial on how I painted this tamborine.

ART & VIDEO:
Website: http://www.jess-mcl.com
Youtube: @Rocket Child
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYLbxTceRn6TZ0IC4fKqOnQ
Instagram: @rocket1111child
https://www.instagram.com/rocket1111child/
Facebook: @rocket1111child
https://www.facebook.com/rocket1111child/

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MUSIC:

Jessica McLeod-Yu

Background Art For A VTUBER – Speed Draw!

I’ve been using Adobe Character Animator CC to create a virtual vtuber avatar of myself to record myself speaking for some of my most recent videos. I think it’s great and really fun to use. For me, I get really nervous recording myself directly in front of a camera, (and it’s even worse having to edit the footage). Therefore, I think it’s amazing to have the opportunity to use my art to create a character of myself, which eliminates some of the stress, and lets me focus on the more important stuff – sharing my art making process and techniques with you guys. This speed drawing video is about how I designed the background art, based off my real desk. I hope you enjoy it!

Please CLICK on the video below to see the drawing process on how I created this background, which includes spoken commentary.

ART & VIDEO:
Website: http://www.jess-mcl.com
Youtube: @Rocket Child
https://www.youtube.com/c/RocketChild
Instagram: @rocket1111child
https://www.instagram.com/rocket1111child/
Facebook: @rocket1111child
https://www.facebook.com/rocket1111child/

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MUSIC:
“March 3 Song” – Jessica McLeod-Yu

Book Binding Vlog

I have always loved creating my own booklets and used to make photocopy style comics and magazines. Though, an actual hard cover book was always too complex for me to figure out at the time. Towards the end of 2020, my curiosity was sparked again and I wanted to give it a go.

The Vlog below talks about the process of creating my first hard cover book, from dying the paper, sewing the spine and making a paper press, as well as the challenges I faced along the way. Book binding is a whole discipline in itself and difficult to execuite well. However, I thought this was an endearing project and it gives me so much joy using the final book as a journal to write and sketch in. Each page is individually dyed and has it’s own texture and colour. (And it also smells delicious!) I intend to try out more book binding styles in the future, but for the time being, I’m very happy with how this one turned out.

CLICK on the video below to see the full Vlog!

ART & VIDEO:
Website: http://www.jess-mcl.com​
Youtube: @Rocket Child
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYLb…​
Instagram: @rocket1111child
https://www.instagram.com/rocket1111c…​
Facebook: @rocket1111child
https://www.facebook.com/rocket1111ch…​

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How To Make a Portable RECORDING BOOTH – Studio VLOG

I’ve been recording my own music and dialogue for years to go with my animations and videos. However, it’s always such a hastle getting all my equipment out and prepared, especially if I have to travel. This last year I decided to come up with a solution and build a PORTABLE MUSIC STUDIO inside of a briefcase. It’s a cheap, lightweight and professional way to record dialogue, music and sounds on the go, especially if I have to visit clients or friends. I’ve already tried it (as demonstrated in the video), and it works really well and takes away the hustle of setting up random bits of equipment.

It’s still a bit difficult to focus on performing, and recording documentary footage, which is why the guitar video bits don’t sync up. However, I have discovered the wonders of Adobe Character Animator and making my own character avatar, which has allowed me to playfully express myself, without having to be directly. I think it’s pretty cool.

(For those who wonder what I sound like singing… now you know.)

CLICK below to see the full video on How To Make a Portable RECORDING BOOTH – Studio VLOG.

If you ever make your own recording project inspired by this, please link it down in the comments.

ART & VIDEO:
Website: http://www.jess-mcl.com​
Youtube: @Rocket Child
https://www.youtube.com/c/RocketChild
Instagram: @rocket1111child
https://www.instagram.com/rocket1111child​
Facebook: @rocket1111child
https://www.facebook.com/rocket1111child

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MUSIC:
“December 1, 2020” – Jessica McLeod-Yu