Sidewalk Chalk Art for Hub Graphics

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 3.59.22 PMEarlier this month, aethelthryth wrote in to share a deliciously playful method of creating custom Hub graphics.

This method requires very little: just some chalk, smooth sidewalk, and a camera!

Aethelthryth came upon this solution when trying to find an alternate source of custom illustrations. Her explanation:

Though I have access to an artist for Hubs of some types, since he is trying to get noticed in aviation circles, a Hub about Finding Mr. Right: Waiting and Dating just wasn’t going to do much for his professional image. So I borrowed (actually, used up) my childrens’ sidewalk chalk to draw some images on the sidewalk that were simple and iconic enough for even me to draw, and took pictures of them.
It took longer than I expected, and I decided afterwards I should have found smoother sidewalk, and I had to explain to guests what these images (and the mistakes I made, first) were doing on our sidewalk, until I got around to washing them off with the hose. But it was fun, and they are my favorite non-artist images on my Hubs.

I love how creative aethelthryth was with finding a new way to add custom graphics to her work (I also appreciate having another excuse to play with sidewalk chalk).

Now we all know to indulge in some outdoor doodling next time we are in need of some simple, colorful Hub images!

The Beautiful Illustrations of Rochelle Frank

Early on this month, Rochelle Frank wrote in to share some of her beautiful Hub images with me. Says Rochelle:

This drawing (pen and color pencil) was for my homophone Hub. I needed something to represent an eager “be” and a reluctant “flower”. I couldn’t find any free clipart that expressed that thought.

The ABC illustrations I did (below) were for a children’s book proposal. I used them with the Hub I did on trying to get a book published. The originals are marker and Prismacolor pencil. I like using the color pencils because they aren’t as messy as paint or pastel.

I found these illustrations to be so beautiful, I asked her to share a bit more about her image-creation process and provide us with some advice on making our Hubs more visually stimulating. Luckily for us, Rochelle Frank was happy to oblige!

Read on for this talented Hubber’s sage advice:

Like many new Hubbers, I started out wondering how to illustrate my articles. I was aware of copyright issues regarding photos and graphics.

I didn’t even have a digital camera at first, except for the one on my desktop Mac.

For a few Hubs that I recycled from my previous print publication articles, my photographer friend allowed me to use to photos which had appeared with the newspaper features, since we both still owned our rights.

I also set up displays of recipe ingredients (or combat boots, or other items) in front of my computer and took iMac photos. Free clip art and public domain images are sometimes also used.

I put small items on my scanner to make images for others.

Finally, I began using some of my own drawings to illustrate Hubs. Scanning original work and putting them into a photo application, I was able to size, crop pr ‘tweak’ them a bit.

Most of my original works are drawings are just pen, sometimes colored with markers or Prismacolor pencils. Even my larger, more detailed drawings are made with colored pencils. There’s no real secret to drawing with them, but they are much less messy than paint or pastels.

Since I “do art” infrequently (and when I do, I might do a little bit and then put it away for awhile, before finishing) I don’t have a dedicated space to make a mess. I can put the pencils and art paper tablet away easily, and get it out again when the inclination hits.

Yes, I was an art major, but my degree is in Art History. I have always drawn and doodled. In college I did cartoons and drawings for the CSULB paper (as well as writing).

Later, as a teacher, I made a lot of my own original teaching materials. As a substitute teacher, I sometimes would start the day by drawing a large outline of a shark or a cartoon character on the chalkboard. It got their attention and sometimes their awe.

They would ask,”Can you teach me how to draw that?”
“Yes,” I would answer, “if we get all of our regular work done.”

I’m a fan of how Rochelle Frank has used illustrations to inspire people and catch their attention in Hubs and classrooms alike. I also appreciate the care she has put into only using images she has the legal right to use. If you’re not sure which licenses enable you to use another’s images, check out our Learning Center guide on proper image use, which will give you an introduction to common image licenses and the manner in which Creative Commons images should be attributed in the Photo Capsule.

Thanks for sharing your beautiful images and insights from us, Rochelle Frank!

Wayseeker’s Words of Wisdom on Images

While most Hubbers who create custom images for their Hubs find one style and format and stick with it, one can find an incredible variety of imagery in Hubs by wayseeker. From specially-edited photos and hand-drawn illustrations to purely digital graphics, a very wide assortment of carefully created eye candy appears on this Hubber’s work.

Because wayseeker puts to much thought into the images he creates and uses, we asked him to share some of his reasoning and advice with the community at large. Read on, and be inspired.

For how long have you been sketching and creating art? Is this a regular activity of yours?

I have always loved to make thoughtful visual creations through drawing, painting, sculpting, and all manner of crafts since I was very young. I have some minor training (art classes in high school), but it’s mostly just a history of dabbling in creative crafts. While I do a little of it here and there every year, I simply don’t have time to do it on a regular basis.

When did you first create an image for a Hub (or include an existing sketch in a new Hub you made), and why did you do it?

While I have been including personal photos since the beginning, my first real “art” work would have been the images I included in the first Hub of the Day I wrote, “The Art of Constructive Criticism.” While still technically digital photographs, these images were heavily edited and digitally manipulated with a specific focus on the content of the Hub.

Mostly I added them because the content was too abstract for traditional pictures to add any real value to the piece. As I thought through what I was writing, I decided it would be fun to “play” with some of the ideas and create silly images–images that resembled, to some extent, the way I carry myself when I actually teach these concepts to my students. It took some time, but it was great fun and they were well received.

My first actual art piece came with the cross I drew to include with my piece on Christianity, which also involved a lot of digital manipulation though it did start with a basic pencil drawing. From there, I’ve done a large number of different things.

What tools do you use to create and then convert your art into digital images?

While I use all kinds of things to create art, for the most part the work I have done on HubPages has been done with either a simple ink pen or water color pencils (colored pencils that move and blend like water color paints when water is applied to them). The ink pen drawings are primarily simple cartoons with stick people. The colored pencil drawings are often taken from real life by first taking a photograph, then transferring the figures in the photograph by placing the picture up on a window and hand tracing the images onto a fresh piece of paper, and finally using those figures as a base for the drawing and painting process.

Once it’s finished, I simply take a digital picture of it in high light, use iPhoto to touch them up a bit, and then load them up. It takes more time (sometimes a lot more time) to develop original images that way, but the result is much more personal.

In addition to putting physically drawn sketches into Hubs, I’ve seen you use images that have been digitally created. What do you use to create those images?

The primary tool I use in creating digital images is a fancy, though free, paint program for Mac called “GIMP,” available at gimp.org. This, combined with a simple digital camera, iPhoto, and the occasional use of the effects found on Mac’s Photo Booth, is where my digital image creation takes place. Once you start to let your imagination wander through the possibilities, it’s amazing how easy—though sometimes time consuming—it can be to realize what you see in your head with the flexibility of modern digital image tools.

As an afterthought, I forgot that I also make pretty heavy use of Microsoft Word 2011. They have some very fun shape tools that allow you to create a wide variety of shapes and then manipulate their shadows, coloration, and 3D effects. I use this mostly for what I call “banner” artwork to create artistic titles to introduce various segments of of my Hubs. These can be cut and pasted into Gimp and used to great effect.

How do you decide between including photos, sketches, or digitally created images in Hubs?

This question is a bit tricky simply because it depends so heavily on the topic of the Hub itself. Generally, I come ups with the images for my Hubs after they have been written. I’m thinking about it all along, but the final ideas don’t solidify until the writing is locked in. I then have to think about what kind of images would be of value to the reader.

Now that you have me thinking about it, I could say that they fall into three categories: informational, thought provoking, and entertaining. In many cases, the images I use cross over from one category to another, but they generally flow out of one of these uses.

Informational images are those like the ones found in most recipe Hubs, mine included, where the image demonstrates how something is done. Another example might be from my Hub on Theme in Literature where I used a pic to show the reader the a basic plot map.

Thought provoking images are like those I often use in my more creative works like my Hub “Five Love Poems About Family,” though I also use them in more informational work like my Hub on parenting by building relationship. In each case, the image is designed to somehow reflect something that is discussed or mentioned in the writing, either making it more visually concrete and experiential for the reader or somehow extending it into another area the reader may not have initially thought about. I like the challenge of making this kind of image.

Entertaining images are like those I have used on my piano Hub about Robert Schumann’s “Carnavale” or the relatively “silly” drawings I’ve used in my essay Hubs and Socratic Seminar Hubs. These are used in places where pictures are not really necessary to what the words are trying to communicate, but they add a fun edge to the experience, hopefully helping the reader to stay engaged by giving them a few more things to do than simply reading text.

Do you think that the images that you create by hand have an edge over photos in any cases?

I don’t think this is necessarily always the case, depending on the topic of the Hub, but I don’t think it’s at all unusual for original photos and artwork to be an advantage. The core of modern writing is still the written word, but effective images are absolutely essential in the world of the internet. By creating your own images, you are able to customize them to reflect specific elements of your writing in ways that stock images simply can’t manage.

I think they also create a sense of warmth and unique personality that is hard to capture in an online experience through writing alone. It has been an honor for me to have four of my Hubs selected as Hub of the Day Hubs over the past year and a half, and I am absolutely certain that part of the reason for that in each of those cases was the original images—some drawn and some digital—that were a part of each of them. I think the artwork contributed to a unique experience within each Hub, so that certainly counts as an advantage.

I have seen many Hubbers do this through great “traditional” artwork as well as really effective original photography. Either way, I think it creates a more welcoming place for readers to spend time, which is what everyone is looking for as a writer.

What advice would you give to those who have yet tried creating their own images for Hubs?

First, I would encourage them to be adventurous in they way they think about images in their Hubs. Instead of just tacking on a pic related to what you happen to be talking about, think about how something could be added visually that extends, deepens, or somehow entertains the reader. Just like we have to move into the reader’s frame of mind as writers when we are composing words, it is equally important to think about the reader’s overall experience of the page including all of the visuals.

As for artistic skill, even if you are not an artist or great photographer, there’s a great deal you can do with today’s computers and manipulating images. On top of that, with digital cameras, you can easily take 100s of photos to get just 1 that’s good at no real cost—this has been a life saver for me.

Many of my original drawings are, literally, stick people. You can look up cartoon expressions online and get a host of easy to draw “smiley face” expressions that are simple to re-create. These simple drawings have received more positive feedback from readers than anything else I’ve created. People appreciate the thought that goes into them as much as the artistic “quality” itself.

Just try it, and soon you’ll find your own unique way of creating, which is exactly the point.

Illustration Tips from Shadesbreath

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!]