Non classé

FAQ

A quick Q and A on questions I regularly receive from artists, students and art enthusiasts. If you email me any variation of these questions, I will direct you here. 🙂

[Last updated May 25, 2016]

About me

My name is Kmye Chan and I am a scientist-come-artist currently living in Paris, France after several years in the UK. I work as a researcher by day, and as an illustrator and gallery artist during my free time.

Medium

My favorite medium is alcohol-based markers (Copic, Promarker), which I typically use in combination with inks (Dr Ph. Martin’s Bombay inks), watercolours (Winsor & Newton, Daniel Smith) and pencils (Caran d’Ache and Faber-Castell Polychromos). My linework is done with pigment liners and brush pens of different brands (Sakura Microns, Unipin, Copic liners, Derwent, Faber-Castell, Pentel). I work on hot-pressed watercolour paper (Arches, Sennelier, Bockingford) which I sometimes mount on wood panels.

Creative process

I usually start with an idea which I can mull over for quite some time – sometimes ideas that have been having around in my head for years. I’ll try to make word associations, contraries, puns and plays-on-words on that idea to come up with a slightly different and unexpected take on the original idea. At that stage I generally have a fuzzy image in my head of the visual impact I want the image to have – general composition and color scheme – and I come up with a quick thumbnail sketch. I then proceed to a full size sketch – I start with a number of lines and geometric shapes, and use these as guidelines to place my elements into an harmonious composition. Once I am happy with the sketch (and often that means starting from scratch a couple of times over!), I transfer it to the final paper with a lightbox, and line the final lines in waterproof ink. Then I proceed to color, first with ink or watercolor washes to set the mood, and then with layers of either markers or ink. Final details are added with pencils and acrylics.

I have previously posted my process checklist here: http://kmye-chan.com/2015/11/10/building-a-picture/

Instruction

I am self-taught. I’m afraid I can’t help with art college advice or applications.

Inspirations

I am instinctively attracted to artworks with strong composition and high reliance on lines and value contrasts. My tastes gravitate towards 19th century art a lot: “Golden Age” illustration(Rackham, Dulac, Beardsley, Nielsen), as well as Symbolist art, Art Nouveau and Pre-Raphaelite art. I also love Surrealist art, 16th century Flemish painting, and comic book/sequential art. I follow many contemporary artists and illustrators online for fresh inspiration and emulation; see the “favourites” sections of my social media accounts for a sample of art I love.

Style, themes

Like most artists my style and themes are constantly evolving. A general thread through my artwork, however, is an atmosphere that is somewhat melancholic, otherworldly and wistful – not sad, exactly, but never fully cheerful either. Most of my illustrations feature characters that are strong and slightly wild, and have a general feel of wonder or eerieness.

How did you find your style/your technique?

That’s an extremely frequent question and unfortunately it’s next to impossible to answer satisfactorily. The truthful answer is that it’s part taste and inspiration, and part work hard over the past ten years. I experimented with many things, and made an effort to pick and choose what I liked in my work and wanted to keep, what I didn’t like anymore and wanted to move away from, what ideas I wanted to work with, and what other artists had done before me and that I’d like to emulate, digest and process into my own work. It’s a long process and not an entirely conscious one – but mostly it’s really just hard work.

How do you stay motivated/deal with art block?

Art block happens to me when I set my own expectations too high, or when I’m not making progress. To avoid this I try to draw regularly, as much and as often as possible, especially in my sketchbook. It doesn’t have to be good artwork: I exercise and experiment while giving myself full permission to fail. It removes much of the pressure of creating and while it does not have the fulfilling effect of working on a large, full-fledged artwork, it is very fun, carefree and motivating. I also love reading art instruction books – again they usually make me want to experiment and test the new knowledge I just read about.

Tips to improve?

As I said above – art instruction books are my favourites. My favourite of aaaaalll time that I recommend to everyone is Creative Illustration by Andrew Loomis, it’s just great. Noah Bradley also published this list on his blog that is a great starting point: http://www.noahbradley.com/blog/10-books-every-artist-must-read/

Finding your audience and your network

I have written about this in more detail here: http://kmyechan.tumblr.com/post/76524314497/hi-what-advice-would-you-give-to-a-budding-artist

How do you balance being an artist and a scientist (and other PhD-related questions)?

I have written about this in more detail here: http://kmyechan.tumblr.com/post/144454651875/hello-first-i-would-like-to-say-how-much-i-love

Have you considered quitting art/science and concentrating only on the other?

I have, but I couldn’t quit art entirely (it’s a part of who I am) and I wouldn’t like being an artist full-time, at least now. I love my job as a scientist and I appreciate the stability it brings me. It allows me to pick and choose only those art projects that I am truly enthusiastic about, and do my own thing. So this works well for me just now.

What did you wish you knew when you got started?

1) Don’t be fooled by apparently easy success. Successful artists are rarely just lucky or talented – most of them work freaking hard, even when it looks like things come easy to them. The overwhelming majority of them have done (or are doing) their homework, they know about color theory, composition theory, they understand negative space and edge control and values, they draw from life, they keep a sketchbook, they do those million little things you have heard of and may have shunned as boring or obsolete or not really necessary (I’ve certainly been there). There is no magic recipe to becoming better, but doing your homework and working hard will pay.
2) Even successful, fantastic artists fail all the time. You just don’t get to see it. Keep it mind that everyone is only showing their best work – everyone has bad drawing days, gets frustrated about their skills, and want to quit at times. This is normal (but unfortunately never goes away), just plough on.
3) Find your support network. Find budding artists at the same stage of career as yours, with similar interests to yours – people who will understand your struggles and cheer with you in good times and put you back on your feet in bad ones. Find mentors, who will give you pointers, tips and harsh critique when it’s needed. This is essential.

 

Building a picture

[This post originally appeared on my Tumblr earlier this year. I am adding it here because it is still relevant.]

 

Hello all,
Several people have commented on the improvement of my compositions for the past 6 months/year or so (thank you!!). I’ve been meaning to write a number of Tumblr posts on composition but I can’t seem to make time for that at the moment – so instead I’m sharing with you the checkpoint list I use when drawing.
These are basically all the things I (try to) pay attention to, to work towards a picture that is as strong and impactful as possible. I like having that list with me, so I regularly go over it and ask myself “Have I given enough thought to this? Could I make it better?” Some of these I feel I have reasonably mastered – others I still struggle with, but you know… it’s a journey! 🙂

I’d love to hear if there are any key aspects you think I’m missing in there.
Also, this is my checklist so it’s worded succintly but I’m happy to explain anything if you have questions.

Space separation

  • Placing of the strongest dynamic lines
  • Placing of the focal point(s)
  • Cropping by the edge of the picture (leave some elements out for interest)
  • Organisation of lines to emphasize the focal points
  • Separation of the major masses (in relation to value placement)

Shapes

  • Variations in shapes and patterns
  • Repetition/singularity
  • Crumping/grouping of objects
  • Variations in sharpness and roundness
  • Overlaps between shapes and object, cropping of some elements

Linework

  • Alternance of straight and curved lines
  • Variations of line weight
  • Variations of line colour and darkness
  • Variations of line density and detail level
  • Variations of broken and continuous linework
  • Different types of edges: sharp, soft, lost (merging of masses, receding parts, etc.)

Values

  • Definition of the major value zones (2, 3 or 4 – one of them usually left to focal details)
  • Variations within the value range of the zone, limiting the overlaps in values between zones as much as possible

Colours

  • Definition of the general colour temperature
  • Definition of the major, minor and accent colour if one is used
  • Variations around the set colour schemes
  • Variations in flat colours and textured colours
  • Variations in saturation depending on importance

Shadows and Light

  • Soft/harsh lighting
  • Shadow depth and density to make some parts recede/stand out
  • Blurring of soft edges with shadow
  • Light density and sharpness/diffusion
  • Interactions between objects and light (throwing shades/cropping light/diffusing light)
  • Atmospheric perspective (or inversed)

Details

  • Variations in detail level according to importance
  • Variations in patterns and texture
  • Variations in edge sharpness and softness
  • Highlights and bright lines

Making giclee prints for illustrators

[This tutorial originally appeared on my old blog in 2013 – I am copying it here because it is still relevant.]

 

Hello everyone!

 

So I spent quite a few hours some weeks ago entirely resetting my printing workflow… and suddenly I remembered how painful it had been in the first place, when I decided to take the leap and print my own giclees. Once you have all the information, it’s actually quite easy, but I couldn’t find a single tutorial gathering all the info in one place. So yeah, here you go! 🙂

 

Some of these steps I was lucky enough to learn from a professional art printer. Some I learnt through trial and error. Hopefully this tutorial will be useful to you!

 

What are giclee prints, and why would you want to make them?

 

 Giclee prints are high-quality fine-art reproductions printed with pigment inks on archival paper. They differ from regular fine-art prints, which are made with dye-based inks, which sink deeper into the paper (making images slightly more fuzzy, and details less crisp) and are not as lightfast as pigment inks.

 

Giclees are pretty much the best quality prints you can get, but they are not cheap to make, and the materials are a serious investment. They are really beautiful though, so if your plan is to make small limited series of prints, I would definitely recommend them. If you are planning to print large editions of your artworks and price them quite cheaply, there are probably better alternatives for you out there. It really depends on how you distribute your artwork. 🙂

 

IMG_0522
Close-up shot of one of my giclee prints. See how sharp it is, and how vivid the colours are?

 

 

Materials

 

obviously, a giclee printer (i.e. inkjet printer with pigment inks). I own an Epson R1900 printer, which is no longer on the market. At the time I purchased it, I wrote a lengthy blog entry on giclee printers, which is a bit outdated but still useful if you are considering purchasing one.

 

IMG_0507

 

– fine art archival paper of your choice. I use Hahnemühle Bamboo, but that’s up to you. Archival papers come in all kinds of textures, white-warmths, and prices, so your favourite may be different from mine. Important: do not use art paper for printing. It’s tempting but archival printing papers are coated with a special coating that helps the ink adhere and stay put, and will give you much better results.

 

IMG_0512

 

– if you are a traditional artist like me, a scanner, obviously! Make sure you scan your artwork at high resolution (min. 300 dpi, but 600 dpi is better), and with all the settings of the scanner turned off. This usually produces better results.

 

– a photography software. I use Photoshop CS5, and the commands I will show you here are for this software. I am sure that other versions of Photoshop and alternative softwares have similar settings though.

 

Calibrating your devices

 

This is a critical step to setting up your printing workflow. Calibrating ensures that colours are handled consistently throughout the process, so that they can be reproduced as accurately as possible.

 

The critical thing to calibrate is your screen, to make sure that what you see is what you will get (although that is never totally true when printing – I’ll get to that). Screen calibration is done with a colorimeter that you place on the screen to measure how a set of colours are rendered: these devices are expensive, but surely you can borrow one from a graphist friend (that’s what I do, anyway). Otherwise there are online tests that will help tweak your monitor settings, but such calibrations are never as good as a custom screen profile made by a colorimeter.

 

Technically your scanner should be calibrated as well, if you use one. Scanner calibrators are expensive as heck and I personally never calibrated my scanner. It’s a good scanner that was well-calibrated from the factory, though, so I make do.

 

Calibrating your printer is also critical to producing beautiful prints. When printing, how a colour is rendered depends on the printer but also on the paper you use. You will therefore need a printing profile matching your printer AND your paper, called an ICC profile. Luckily for you, paper producers provide calibrated ICC profiles for almost every printer you can wish for, for each of their papers. Go to their website, download the correct ICC profile to your computer, and you’ll be set. Depending on your operating system, you will have to place your ICC profile in the correct folder in your computer, for example:

 

– for Windows Vista and 7: Windows / System32 / Spool / Drivers / Color

 

– for MacOS 10.2 and beyond: Library / ColorSync / Profiles

 

Preparing your picture for printing

 

Open your picture with Photoshop (or your favourite software). If it asks you what profile to use with the picture, choose the “no colour management” option, as you don’t want that to mess with your calibration profiles later on.

 

tuto1Yes my Photoshop is in French. 😉

 

 

First and foremost – if you are a traditional artist and your artwork is scanned, you need to clean up your artwork. There are always little pieces of dirt, eraser dust and fibers that stick to traditional artworks or inside your scanner. As giclee prints are very high resolution, these show terribly on prints – they actually look like there physically is something on the print. So zoom in at full resolution and track little specks of dirt all over your artwork, and remove them using the Cloning tool in Photoshop. It only takes a few minutes and makes a world of difference.

 

tuto2

 

Also, if your artwork is scanned – I suggest not making any alterations (i.e. adjusting the brightness/contrast/colour balance/etc) just yet. I have found that files fresh from the scanner often reproduced the original artwork much better than adjusted files where these parameters have been tweaked a bit, even if these look better on the screen. Files fresh from the scanner sometimes look a little washed out but that is ok – printing will produce a darker picture. That is because on screen, your picture is lighted by transmitted light (i.e. the light comes from within), while on paper, your picture will be lighted by reflected light (i.e. environmental light that bounces on the paper). Transmitted light is much stronger and makes colours look paler.

 

Then, you can check how print will look like by softproofing your picture, i.e. visually correct for any differences that the printing process will make on what you see on the screen. This include correcting for the tint of your paper, but also modifying slightly the colours that are outside of the range that can be reproduced accurately by your printer (known as the gamut).

 

Go to View > Proof Setup > Custom, and choose your printing ICC profile in the list of simulated devices. As the rendering mode, choose “Perception”: this means that if some colours are out of your gamut, all the colours will be slightly modified to get everything back into gamut, instead of just modifying the colours outside the gamut. This way, you will not have ruptures in your gradients and such. Also check the “Black Point Compensation” box, which makes sure that perfect black on your monitor will correspond to the prefect black of your printer, and the “Simulate Color Paper” box.

 

This will give you a pretty accurate idea of how your print will come out. It should look a bit washed out.

 

tuto3

 

tuto4

 

Checking View > Non-printable colours (or Gamut Warning, Shift+Ctrl+Y) will show you any areas of your picture that are outside of your printer gamut, and will therefore be slightly different on your print.

 

Making test prints

 

It’s rare for a print to come out perfectly on your first try. In order not to waste too much ink and paper, it’s best to make test prints. 
 Resize your file to about 10×15 cm and copy it to a test file. You can have many different test prints in your test file, it saves times! Then print your test file with the actual printing setting you will use for your prints: hit File > Print, and set your printing settings.

 

– your printer should be your giclee printer.

 

– Printing parameters: this will depend on your printer, but here are my settings for an Epson R1900, which should work for most Epson printers. Paper source will usually be “Manual” with fine-art papers, which need to be feeded through a special slot in the printer. Paper type should be something like “Velvet fine art”. Size is your paper size. Important: you then need to hit the “More options” thumbnail to set important info: paper margins should be “no margins”, and the “Unactivated (no colour calibration)” box should be ticked. You want Photoshop to do the colour calibration as it is able to load the printer/paper ICC profile.You can save all this info in a custom printer setting.

 

tuto5

 

– Back in the Photoshop printing menu: on the right, choose “Let Photoshop manage the colours”, and check your correct ICC profile in the list. Rendering mode should be Perception again, and Black Point Compenstion should be ticked.

 

tuto6

 

And you’re set to print your test file!

 

Remember, you have to use the actual paper, not cheap printing paper, otherwise all this process is useless!

 

If the colours are not satisfying, you will need to tweak them with the Image settings (Colour balance/Levels/Brightness/etc). And print new tests, etc, until you’re happy.

 

Print your prints

 

Make sure the printing settings are as described above, and print away! 🙂

 

Let them dry thoroughly then sign them and number them like the happy artist that you are.

 

Wrapping and shipping

 

Giclee prints are sensitive to scratches, because they are printed with pigments that don’t actually sink into the paper. You don’t want to let them lying around unprotected, as they can get damaged quite easily. You can wrap them either in clear cello bags, or into a sheet of white tissue paper. The second method is considered “the classical proper way” but I personally feel that clear bags look a bit more professional. Each one their own I suppose! 🙂

 

IMG_0504

 

Shipping prints can be a conundrum. Most artists insist on shipping their prints in flat hard enveloppes, because it keeps the print nice and flat. Unfortunately in my experience, mailing large flat enveloppes has meant lots of damaged prints that have been forcibly introduced into tiny mailboxes, and also lots of lost prints. I now send my prints rolled into long, hard cardboard boxes that are about 10cmx10cm in section. This way the prints are not rolled very tight, but can’t be bended of folded. I have never had any damaged prints since, and no lost prints either. Not sure why the last one is, I suppose that the boxes look less conspicuous and don’t get stolen as much – and possibly they’re easier to handle by the mail services and don’t suffer from the “this doesn’t fit in the box – OOPS IT FELL” syndrome. Just my two cents. 🙂
[EDIT – 6 Nov 2015] I’ve actually had one damaged print since I wrote that tutorial, after someone along the way obviously opened the box to peak inside. 🙁
And that’s it!

 

Print like the wind, fellow artists!

Breathe, focus, restart

Bonjour blog!

I have been toying with the idea of having a blog again – a real blog, not a Tumblr where I only share pictures – for some time now. So that I can talk to you in more meaningful ways, with purpose and intent, and share art-related things that do not get lost in the anonymity and heavy flow of social media.

There are things I want to tell you about.

I don’t only want to show you my work – I want to show you how I work, I want to review my art supplies, I want to rant and laugh and inspire sometimes perhaps. I want to go more in depth with these things, in ways that go beyond my own promotion.

Much as I love social media and every one of the people who follow my work there or whose work I follow (and I do love it all!), the interactions there are often so quick and transient that it all makes my head spin. I see beautiful things, and forget about them in a minute. More often than not I will not comment, because the “like” button is so easy, and the amount of information at hand is so large anyway that I cannot process it all well enough to say something more interesting than “Oooh love it!”.

This blog is for myself as much as it is for readers. I will not publish regularly, only when I have something meaningful to share with you that is not simply pictures. I hope you will find something to take from it.

Periscope

If you are interested in watching me live-paint, I have a Periscope account!

There’s not much to see just yet, but I will stream more when I move forward with the picture I am working on (right now I am sketching and this doesn’t translate well on camera).

See you there! 🙂

 

IMG_20150827_134247