a graphic design process: The Hummingbird

It started with a tattoo, and eventually became a way I define myself.

When going through multiple designs to come up with my new logo, my sister suggested something that I quickly sketched out. I then did a slightly more refined sketch of it and scanned that to begin the tough part of the work.

hummingbird 01

The vector part of the work. For anyone who doesn’t know about vectors, it’s basically a mathematical definition of a shape in space, therefore it can be enlarged or shrunk without ever losing quality. After a very short (5 minutes maybe) rundown of how Illustrator works from my sister, I set off on creating the vector lines for what my Hummingbird would be. I wanted to go this route, because the original design for my tattoo (done by my sister) (notice how almost everything art related involves my sister) was a vector, I wanted to remain with that.

Hummingbird vector final

Believe it or not, but this took me a while to do, because I was also figuring out Illustrator while doing this. Every Adobe program I’ve used has a steep learning curve, and it usually takes one solid project and several hours of working before you feel like you’re comfortable with the program. The only one not like that for me has been Lightroom, mostly because I already understood photo editing and Lightroom is stupid easy if you know photo editing at all.

But I didn’t want to just have a plain graphic. I wanted to have color involved. Because I love color. So I took my vector into Photoshop and started playing around with some ink textures I have, put the layers on multiply and started coloring. Pretty cool, but I wasn’t satisfied.

Hummingbird vector final

And what do I do when I’m not satisfied with digital art? I go with traditional mediums, of course. I’m much more familiar with traditional mediums and feel like I’m significantly better with them too. I wanted to do an ink/watercolor colorization of the piece, so I printed it out and transferred it to some watercolor paper I had laying around. Arches is the brand, and as it turns out, not all cold pressed watercolor paper is the same. I typically work with Fluid watercolor block, and Arches has a much thicker/harsher grain to the paper. It also reacts to water differently from Fluid, so I ended up starting over on another sheet. Basically it soaks up the water and then absorbs watercolors and ink so fast and then they bleed. It also takes longer for the paper to dry than Fluid paper. So, lesson learned. I like Fluid paper 100% more. I guess the interesting thing that Arches paper does is it soaks in the watercolors at a different rate (Dr. Ph. Martin liquid watercolors absorb at different rates. Blues absorb into the paper slower than reds and yellows, but faster than browns) so I ended up with a really striated look. Not what I wanted.

So on to attempt number 2. Which also involved accidentally sticking my hand in really wet ink. When I use india ink with a nib and not a brush, it takes a long time to dry and sometimes the ink comes off the pen nib in large globs, which take forever and a half to dry.

After inking in everything, I took chalk pastels and added some texture and some extra color. While it covers up some of the more detailed linework, I’m fine with it. Then spray fixed it and voila. I’m really happy with this, and I like it. It’s a rube throated hummingbird, but I took inspiration from another kind of hummingbird that actually does have those long tails.

Hummingbird watercolor

Want to know something cool–about how this design came about? When positioned like this, the Hummingbird is in the shape of a letter J. As in J for Julie. Graphic design win.