Archive for Working Process

New Website Makeover!

Thanks to my lovely wife, Cherish, I recently updated my website. My yellow from yesteryear had to go, but I was still able to homage the honeycomb pattern subtly in the background.

But better than that was an updated gallery function that I could add in WordPress. Now when you go to one of my illustration pages, either Color, Black and White, or Caricatures, you can actually sort by categories. Over the course of 30 years, I have created tens of thousands of illustrations, so choosing which images to go with and how to organize them has always been a challenge. This new gallery function helps with that.

Go ahead and check out the new design! I’m sure you will be pleased. I certainly am!

A Liver Transplant Journey

On March, 30 2017, Benjamin Hummel gave a candid talk about dealing with life long chronic illness, which includes ulcerated colitis and primary sclerosing cholangitis, the two transplants that it resulted and his art journey during that process. This inspirational, and sometimes humorous, talk was presented to the students and faculty of the illustration department at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. Below is a video of that talk.

Replicating Louis Tiffany’s Masterpiece

Replicating Louis Tiffany’s masterpiece can be a challenging thing. This next illustration for the children’s book “Lights On!” illustrates Ike and Samuel walking down the Cross Hall as it might have looked in 1890. The problem is, there’s only 3 grainy photos I was able to find of the Cross Hall and the famed Tiffany glass partition that separated the Cross Hall from the entry way. In 1904, Theodore Roosevelt remodeled the White House and one of the things he did was have the stained glass wall removed in order to open up the space.

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In order to make this illustration, I employed several tricks. First, I roughed up a generic point of view in my thumbnail sketches. Even though in this piece the vanishing points are really close together (much closer than would be in reality) I loved the gaping, cavernous feel it gave, so I kept the original perspective from my thumbnail sketches. (I tried a version where I “corrected” the placement of the vanishing points, and found the image to be too boring). I then gridded everything out and I aligned the columns, windows, and ceiling tiling in the grid.

Then, on a separate sheet of graph paper, I drew out the stained glass design as best as I could approximate. In Adobe Illustrator, I created a ceiling design based upon one of the photos I had. I took the flat stained glass design and ceiling design and digitally warped and fit them into my gridded perspective drawing. This was then all traced on board. For my underpainting, I separated the light areas and the shadow areas first, and then I proceeded to paint the detail inside of both. Believe me, the detail was as arduous as it looks. I labored over it, because I wanted it to have a wow factor at the end.

By the time I finished, seven days later, the paint on my palette had pretty much all dried up and my detail brushes were all shot. But, in the end, I think it’s worth it.

PS. I did not do enough research to know where the stained glass ended up, I’m guessing it’s in a museum somewhere. If you know, feel free to send me an email.

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Travel Back to 1890 with Me

In case you don’t follow me on Instagram (…um… if not, why? @hummelillustration), I am in the middle of illustrating a historical picture book about Ike Hoover, the young man who wired the White House for the very first time. Those familiar with my work, know my propensity toward historical illustration, and in specific, I have a tender spot for the latter Victorian/Industrial age as it emerges into the Belle Epoch era at the turn of the century. Everything about this story is tailor-fit to me and my illustration style.

The book is titled “Lights On!” It is being published by Filter Press and will be released in 2017. I have a total of 20 illustrations to complete. I’m using this opportunity to really explore what I can do with perspective, as I have been challenged with a variety of unique settings both inside and out of the White House. As the book nears completion, I’ll release other blogs about it, so stay tuned!

Like all of my work, the process is what makes the final successful. A lot of research and a lot of time spent in the preliminary stages. Here is a sneak peak of some of the illustrations, but certainly, I’ll keep posting my progress on Instagram.

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Basic perspective drawing… made easy and fun!

Stay informed about the progress of the Perspective Book.

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I’m writing a book!

My own personal learning challenges coupled with in class experience led me to develop a unique and fun technique for teaching perspective, a method that cements these concepts into a beginning artist’s mind. In class successes proved my techniques to be highly effective, therefore, I decided to start putting them down into a book.

Educational Philosphy

My personal educational philosophy is this: Education should be both informative AND entertaining. That is the approach I take when teaching, and that is the approach of the book. I sprinkle my lectures with visual gags, running jokes, and stupid puns, but between those I weave in the concepts of perspective, focusing on the “why it works.” I truly believe that once you understand the “why,” remember the steps of the “how” become a lot easier.

For more info, sign up for the email list

This has been a project that I’ve been picking at for a few years now, remaining back burner until now. As I have been working on it, many of you expressed great interest in wanting to stay informed about this project and perhaps getting a copy of it when it is finished. My plans are to get enough chapters written and illustrated so that I can then pitch it a publishing company. When it is finally published, I will absolutely let everybody know, along with any book signings, talks, or other related ventures. So, please, please, please, sign up below! I will only send emails out in regards to the status of the book. But if I have enough individuals on the list, that will be a draw for potential publishers.

Everybody who joins the email list will receive a free gift! I will send them a chapter from the book, complete with all the illustrations, in PDF form.

Perspective books are usually two of three things: thorough, illustrative, and entertaining. Some books have great visuals, but not a lot of copy to explain exactly what is going on in the diagrams. Some thorough with both copy and visuals, but were dry to read, and boring. And some had great visuals and were entertaining, but the book’s organization made it difficult to follow. My book will be the successful culmination of all three: thorough, illustrative, and entertaining.

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Zacchaeus was a wee little man…

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For those of us who grew up going to Sunday school, we’ll recall the nursery song about Zacchaeus, the Jewish tax collector mentioned in the Gospels. So when Pastor Blake at Faith Bible Chapel, Carr St, brought him up as a case study into more adult topics it made sense as a part of my note taking to doodle the scene out.

I actually do this a lot. Instead of writing words, I’ll draw out the imagery that comes to mind as I’m listening to a sermon or a lecture. Sometimes those images are very concrete, as is this one, and sometimes they are more abstract. Often times, they don’t end up mounting to much, other than pneumatic devices to help me personally remember the different points.

In this particular case, I was rather pleased with the final sketch. The actual pencil drawing was only about 4″ high at most. Since it turned out well, I decided to scan it in, at which point I felt that I could enhance it even more with some digital color overlays. Trying to force myself to play around with unique color combinations, I went with these bold, out-of-gamut colors. It was fun, turned out alright, and so I felt compelled to share.

New Year’s Cards… in the third dimension!

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In addition to my traditional, printed page, illustration work, I also am an illusionary 3D chalk artist. Yes, I’m one of those crazy guys who sits underneath blistering sun and driving rain as I try and bring my street art illustration, created in nothing more than chalk, into something that appears 3D in the camera. If you haven’t checked us out, I invite you to go to PeopleOfTheChalk.com. And while you are at it, if you know of or are in charge of an upcoming festival or event and you would like me and my team (aka, my talented artist wife) to come down and perform a custom (as in, you help choose the design) 3D chalk art piece, be sure to drop me a line and we can set that up. (*AHEM, AHEM*)

Thus, when it came time to come up with a design for my holiday card, I thought to myself, what if I could create a similar illusion, but on a smaller scale. What if those receiving the cards could take those cards, lay them flat, and then with their camera phones get a sense of that illusionary depth.

That is what I endeavored to do with this piece. Nothing is new in regards to how to set up the reverse perspective, except that instead of working in feet, I’m working in inches. I plotted out my reverse vanishing point and drew everything up on graph paper. The image below shows first how it is supposed to look when the illusion comes together, and then what it actually looks like when looking straight down on it. It’s pretty fascinating how, if you have the vanishing point in the right position, based upon the precise viewing area of the camera, the converging lines appear to look parallel.

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Next, I had to plot out the shadows. The illusions work best if you have a strong shadow pattern and it is accurate according to a given light source. Assuming that most people would be looking at these cards with a light source directly above them, I anticipated this to be the light source, moving it to the left a little to give it some visual interest. With this in mind, I plotted both a shadow vanishing point and a light source point, in reverse perspective. Then every single to corner that can cast a shadow somewhere needs to be plotted to BOTH of these points, plus additional lines drawn back to the reverse vanishing point. To see how complex that ended up being, see below.

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I took this shadow information and retraced everything onto illustration board so I could paint it traditionally. I painted a version digitally as a color study and used that as a guide as I went into this final piece.

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If all of this sounds complex, … guess what, it is. However, I understand that perspective is a type of math that can be very confusing to the lay person or the right brained artist. For that reason, I’m writing a book on perspective, designed to be very user friendly and easy to understand and use. It’s in it’s rough, rough draft stage right now, but as I continue to develop it, I’ll keep you posted.

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That’s all for now. I made a limited number of these cards, but if you send me a query from my contact page and let me add you to my email list (which I email once every seven years, I’m kind of like a comet in that regard), I’ll be sure to mail you any of the extras I have, first come, first serve.

Green Ribbon of Hope

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Once again, I was privileged this year to create the art for the University of Colorado Transplant unit’s Christmas card. The image that we decided to go with was a more pastoral winter scene, something that invoked Colorado. Since the green ribbon has such strong symbolism with organ donation, we always try to tie it in (no pun intended) the design somehow. Some years, it remained hidden, other years it’s a part of the main attraction.

This year, we decided to weave it throughout the aspen, which then serves both as a compositional element, as well as convey the idea that the continuation of life is felt throughout. I know this first hand, as many of you are aware of my story, I’m a two time liver-transplant survivor, made necessary from the debilitating auto-immune disorder from which I suffer. These cards are very personal to me, and I’m very honored to be a part of this ongoing holiday tradition.

Once the initial concept was complete, I rendered several sketches, playing around with different value studies and color schemes. I decided to make it appear as if it is a new morning. Fewer things are more beautiful than a cold winter morning as the sun rises on freshly fallen snow, and I wanted to convey the sense of new beginnings through this idea.

All of it was done in acrylic on board (with really tiny brushes… which reminds me, I need to go buy more brushes…)

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I did multiple color studies in Photoshop before moving to the final.

A Girl, A Horse, and Her Dog

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For the past three months, I have been secretly working on illustrations for a children’s chapter book with the tentative title as seen above. Yesterday, I put the final touch of pencil down on the last illustration, finally concluding the project. One color cover and twelve grayscale interior illustrations are now finished and ready for publication.

This project was a challenge for me. It involved drawing children with horses and a border collie, nothing I am familiar with or comfortable drawing. Some of the pieces required intense perspective grids (which I am familiar with, but it does take time). In order to get myself into illustration shape, I did what any illustrator would do, I filled sketchbooks full of studies of horses, border collies and children, until I had figured out a look and feel in which to work.

I also procured my own photo reference, setting up photoshoots with a friend who had a border collie and another friend who had a daughter who just happened to be the right age, plus several other children who helped out for some of the crowd scenes.

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I’m still not ready to show all of the illustrations yet, not until the book is published, but I wanted to show off the cover and the last interior illustration I worked on: Christmas Pageant. In order to create visual interest with this piece and the rest of the book, I decided that this would be a great place to set up a bird’s view perspective. Doing so properly would require perspective.

The different squared shapes (the stable and the inn flat) are not parallel to each other, thereby requiring their own set of vanishing points. Add to that, I decided to make this a three point perspective grid, so the vertical lines drop to a point beneath the action. Because of this, the characters also had to be subjected to three point perspective, and I tried to emphasize this as I could when rendering them. You can see a copy of the perspective grid I created. I usually create my perspective grids in Adobe Illustrator, that way I can set my vanishing points as far off the paper as I need to and be able to access them quickly and conveniently. Illustrator also allows me to draw vanishing lines rapidly. Since Illustrator is very technical, I’ll print out the grid, place it under my sheet of Bristol, and then render the scene with its nuances using a light table.

So, the next time you see an illustration of mine that has a lot of perspective, that’s how I do it. As soon as the book is published, I’ll update this blog and provide links for you to acquire a signed copy.

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It…

I was teaching class this week and I was musing with one of my students about the process of creating art. He complained that all of his illustrations are simply taking him way to long to execute, and when he finishes, the end result is never quite what he had hoped.

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As I watched him work, I noticed he fell into the same pitfalls I did as a starting artist. He immediately starting jumping into the detail of the surface area of his character, meanwhile completely neglecting the overall form and structure underneath. I reminded him, “Big shapes, start with the big shapes.” I told him fill up the entire composition with color and value first, as quick as you can, so that there is paint (or pixels) on the entire surface of the canvas before jumping back in to work on the details. Think about the basic forms, how light and shadow works on those basic forms, and try to break down the complex forms into those simpler forms. Render them accordingly, THEN add detail.

I also reminded him that it is crucial that he starts detailing at the center of interest first, usually the face. Get that nice and tight and correct, and let everything else be subordinate to it. This way, if you had to stop at any point in the process, the piece will have a level of finish to it.

When I arrived home, I decided to challenge myself to the same standard. Could I create a four-hour illustration, following the exact same advise I just gave? I sat down and this is what I created.

After exploring different compositions through a series of quick sketches, I quickly rendered the line art in pencil, scanned it in and started painting digitally. I separated my values, blocked in colors, kept everything pretty flat, as I worked into the composition, knowing I would stop myself after four hours. We had some cool Photoshop brushes we just downloaded that I used and I brought in some scanned textures to add to painting. After four and a half hours (so I went over a little, I blame the dog in the corner, it wasn’t in my original concept sketch), I saved the final file and called it finished.

The piece is inspired by the fond memories of growing up with a trampoline in suburbia Aurora, with four brothers and lots of neighborhood friends. It is titled “Rise Above It”.