Shadesbreath is one of HubPages’ long-time artists; he has been incorporating original sketches into his Hubs for years. As he has quite a lot of experience with creating custom graphics for his work- as well as making the tough decision of when they should be used and when it is better to use other images- we asked for him to share some of his wisdom with the community at large. Lucky for all of us, he obligingly agreed. I hope that his helpful tips inspire you to have a go at creating sketches for some Hubs of your own!
How long have you been sketching? Have you always had a habit of occasionally including sketches in your work?
I’ve been sketching since I was a kid, even considered majoring in art for a while. As for putting sketches into my Hubs, that crept in more gradually. I started out trying to be serious—and I used graphics resources like everyone else—but then I realized I am far too immature for serious articles, and there are no Flikr or Wikimedia Commons sites with stuff goofy enough or sarcastic enough to help me.
How did you develop your signature style?
It’s sort of a combination of laziness and the careful black and white shading that I can do reasonably well if I take the time. My Vlad the Inhaler Hub was the first one I illustrated, and I think I spent about twenty-five hours drawing the pictures for it. While I thought they came out well, especially the bat on the roof, I knew after that hub I was going to have to tone illustrations wayyyy down. I don’t have twenty-five hours to illustrate on top of the time spent writing a hub, so I started going for faster sketches. That quick use of light and shadow eventually turned into the style you see on a lot of my stuff now.
What makes you decide to create an original illustration for a Hub?
Mainly it’s when I can’t find perfect graphical fits for my work anywhere else. I’m kind of a control freak when it comes to my writing, and I figure if I’m going to choose my words carefully, I should choose my images carefully too. Plus, obviously, I don’t have to deal with copyright issues if I make my own stuff.
What media do you use to create your illustrations? What process do you follow when scanning them in and preparing them for final presentation in a Hub?
For the goofy quick sketches, I draw on the backs of manuscript pages since I always have tons of those lying around. Then I scan them on a little scanner my wife got cheap at an office supply store, I think for under a hundred bucks. Up until the last six months or so, I used to do any modifications to the drawings in the simple MS Paint program that comes with windows, but now I’m trying to do everything in Photoshop—even though it is a thousand-million times more complicated and totally drives me to drink.
What would you say are the biggest benefits of using illustrations over photos?
Precision and “voice.” For me, I can sketch something that has the same attitude, the same mood and rhetorical flavor, as the prose in the Hub. And of course I can sketch something that is precisely what has occurred in the text which, when you are going for absurd (think of the whale lifting thing in my Hub about joining the gym for example, or the one where my wife is a mutant from the forbidden zone… where am I going to find that kind of stuff?). I suppose I could doctor photos for that sort of thing (and sometimes I do), but sketching gets me straight to what I want it to be.
What advice would you give to those who might be hesitant to consider creating handmade art to put in their online articles?
If you love making art, go for it. Don’t worry about what people might think. Just do it. You never know what will work until you try. Look at Mark Ewbie’s stuff. The guy draws stick figures for Pete’s sake. And yet, somehow, he manages to make them brilliant. If stick figures can work, and the silliness I put up can work, anything can work. Draw, paint, write from your heart, make is as good as you can, and that will resonate with people.
[For more illustrative inspiration, check out Shadesbreath’s Hubs!]