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Vertex Week day 1: illustration live blog

Join us through the day as we follow along with our artists for Vertex Week 2022.

Vertex Week 2022, all you need to know
(Image: © Future)

It's day one of Vertex Week 2022! We're celebrating illustration today with some great artists who create digitally and with traditional paints

Earlier today we live blogged Cynthia Sheppard's tutorial on how to paint strong shadows. Sat in with Spiridon Giannakis who offers his advice on how to create an art book published, and took a brief journey into the jungle of Hawaii with illustrator Ekundayo for a graffiti portrait speed-paint. 

It was great listening in to the special edition of the Painted in Color podcast. We ended with a tutorial from awarding-winning illustrator James Gurney. All these videos are free to watch on Creative Bloq, and see them all below.

Vertex Week 2022 schedule

(Image credit: Future)

How to paint with strong shadows

Advice for publishing an art book

Plein air painting a graffiti portrait

Painted in Color: diversity in fantasy art

Plein air painting a biplane with James Gurney


Want to try this out, get Photoshop for free and start painting.

LOVE watching those big brush strokes and shapes map out the face.

Adding a background wash like this instantly defines the face, love this part. It's great to play with the background shadows and lighting to create those edges around the face.

The eye shadows are tricky, we always get this wrong and go in too heavy.

We have 70 Photoshop tutorials here on the site, try out one of these when you have the time.

Just merging those shadows together now, looking good.

Getting into defining the eyes, this is a tricky bit for us amateurs – not for Cynthia though!

Get started in digital painting with one of the best drawing tablets, selected by us.

Ah! Ears. These can be so hard, and it’s easy to resort to random squiggles. Cynthia makes it look so easy.

And there we are! You can find more content like this every month in ImagineFX magazine.

Spiridon has so much experience, we're pinning back our ears and listening in. Can't wait to see what he has to say.

We're getting book envy here, look at Spiridon's amazing collection! And his models too, we need that Ecto-1.

Need to know how much art you need to create before starting – great point, and get it all finished. Make the publisher's life easy!

Good advice here from Spiridon – crowdfunding campaigns are more work than you'd imagine. Know what you're doing before you make promises to backers you can fulfil!

We love a reality check – having a Spiridon in your life to set you straight can really help you focus and improve.

We're reflecting on Spiridon's words: You should love your work, so keep this in mind before you even start a book project. Is this something you'll want to stick with?


Go big or go home! Everyone loves a large art book, something to sink your teeth into – think about the kind of book you'd want to read and make it.

Get creative too, love the idea of art merging with presentation and the book itself. 

Oh, yes, not all artists love to read so don't force yourself – make the art do the talking.

Get involved! It's your art book, so make sure you're into the choices. Good advice.

We've picked our best art books of 2022, take a look.

 We're huge fans of Iris Compiet, artist and author of Faeries of the Faultlines, she offers lots of advice on how make social media work for you in our feature.

Who doesn't love a massive, luxury coffee table book from Taschen?

Time is money in publishing… we've worked in publishing, and trust us this is a big one.

Know what you're getting into if you take full control, good advice.

No the risks from self-publishing, that seems good advice. 

And with that, we say goodbye to Spiridon. His video is free to view on the site, so take a look back at your leisure as there's excellent advice here.

Next today we'll be live blogging as Ekundayo ventures into the jungles of Hawaii to paint a graffiti portrait – yes, really.

Yep, he’s in the jungle. We’re so jealous, imagine being able to spend time in Hawaii and paint too? Amazing life.

Be sure to take a look at Ekundayo’s work on his site, it’s inspirational.

He paints with such freedom, if we tried this it’ll be an absolute mess. How easy is it to clean paint from a jungle?

We love Ekundayo’s makeshift easel, he’s just wedged his canvas in the tree and he’s off… guess it saves lugging an easel around. Maybe James Gurney should give a go?

If you do need one, we have a great guide to the best art easels for painting.

Lovely colours, the yellow and cyan are really jumping off. And he’s done. A quick one but we think you’ll be hitting that replay button.

Remember, there are more videos on the site today and new ones added all week.

Erik's style is amazing. How does he make all those squiggles turn into elegant and lively art?

Can you guess what it is? We're going for tiger-dragon. 

Love those swirls. There's something very meditative about watching those lines evolving into something amazing.

Have you tried to just scribble until it turns into something meaningful?

We're having just watching, but we like the idea of setting an end goal. 

… ah! You almost had us Erik!

Must be more…

We're taking notes, Erik.

Ideas can come at any time. Keep that notebook to hand.

Erik's doing a great job here, watching him whittle away at his sketch makes us want to break open a sketchbook. 

100K follows! That's a lot. The art is great, and like Erik says he's found himself with a style he never knew he'd need or have. 

What's your style?

Like Erik, maybe you shouldn't work to find a style but just to what you love and eventually your style will come through.

Kekai! We love Kekai too. 

Want to try digital art and sketching like Erik, take a look at our guide to the best drawing tablets.

This is looking cool now.

Noodling the background now.

Erik's views on colour versus detail are interesting. Illustration should grab you and often intense use of colour is the way. 

If you want to grab people's attention online, you really need to hit them with that colour. 

Cool skull flowers there Erik! 

Some wise words here from Erik. Great art and a healthy approach to illustration. 

Those squiggles come to life with a little colour, control of values, and a lot of imagination.

Fascinating listening to Erik talk through his thought process. 

What you think are squiggles and doodles are neatly planned ideas. Contrast, focus, where the detail goes and how – it's all in here.

Kind of want see Erik draw Batman.

Leaving the best for last?

Good rambling Erik. 

Don't forget Erik's tutorial and talk on digital illustration in Photoshop is available to watch on the site at any time.

You can also read his 16 points digital sketching tips on the site too, it's well worth a read. 

Come back soon as we join the Painted in Color team for a talk on Diversity in fantasy art.

And we're back! This is Joseph Foley in Argentina, now dropping in on the Painted in Color team for an enlightening discussion on diversity in fantasy art. Host and art director Lauren Brown begins by inviting the stellar panel to introduce themselves. We have fantasy and sci-fi Illustrator Eric Wilkerson, fantasy illustrator and writer Mia Araujo and vis dev artist and concept artist Esther Wu.

We're looking forward to hearing this awesome foursome talk about diversity and lack of in the fantasy art industry, and what they're doing to change things. Here we go; you can follow the conversation below and here as part of Vertex Week 2022.

Wilkerson mentions how he was afraid to take the risk to develop his calling card of "painting black kids having sci-fi adventures", but that it was a worthwhile endeavour. Take a look at his art in his online profile, and that becomes very clear. He has a great timelapse of his oil painting process there too.

We've had the pleasure of hearing from Lauren Brown on Creative Bloq before in a feature that she did on her work and the importance of diversity in fantasy so we've been looking forward to hearing from her on this special edition of Painted in Color. Last year, she won a Black In Gaming - Excellence in Artistry award, and she started 2022 with a move from Zynga to take up the role of art director at Wildseed Games.

The panel starts off talking about how their personal lives and experiences influence their work. Interesting to learn that Mia Araujo's family hailed from Argentina, where your blogger is writing from. I think many artists will be able to relate to her observation that an identity that doesn't "fit in a box" can inspire a search for different points of view as an artist.

Fascinating to hear these guys talk about their earliest influences that kindled their passion for sci-fi and fantasy, and particularly the diversity that Wilkerson found in Star Trek, and its "positive view of the future." Araujo mentions the Euro-centric fantasy characters of her youth, but it's interesting to consider Star Trek as a positive melting pot that was ahead of its time.

Brown says a defining moment for her was going to Dragon Con for the first time and seeing that all of the characters presented were white. "This is fantasy and you can't even fantasise that there could be a person of colour in your space?" she says.

It's interesting how Araujo mentions the growth in resources and tutorials opening up access for those getting started in the fantasy art sector – something we seek to encourage. Great insights from everyone on the panel, and you can read more from Lauren Brown on Diversity in art right here on Creative Bloq.

We're taking a break for a moment now. Remember that you can go back and watch this special edition of Painted in Color at any time here. Don't go far, because we've still got more to come today from Vertex Week 2022. 

Next up, we'll be watching as the iconic Dinotopia artist James Gurney shares his painting process and reveals how to capture a real-life scene. That promises to be a treat so don't go far!

The legend is here. No dinos this time but James Gurney has some retro fun in store.

He says using a grid game a profound new insight into the 3D space on a 2D plane.

James really does know his stuff when it comes to capturing a moment in watercolour.

Lovely plug for ImagineFX there! We love a good magazine and ImagineFX is still the best around for fantasy and sci-fi art techniques. *some of us worked on it

Love hearing how James gets the lowdown on the scene, chatting to the subjects.

James has a lovely setup, we're getting easel envy.

James is using his grid to paint area by area as he's confident in his sketching.

He's incredibly bold and confident in his application and brush strokes, everything means something and is being used with reason.

James is going full tutor now and he gets into the history of aviation and illustration… with a giant pencil! 

Fans of James will know he loves to pick up a huge pencil and delve into the history of a subject. 

If you grew up on James' Dinotopia you'll know he loves to mix old and new ideas, and really get into a subject.

We're back on the canvas and the painting is coming along beautifully.

James is carefully making cast shadows with a round brush. He's being quite bold with these strokes, before adding more detail.

It's amazing to watch James piece together his paintings from early blocking to detail.

It's interesting to hear James is using a limited colour palette here, mixing a small number of colours find any purples, blues or greens he needs rather than dip into hose colours themselves. 

It's to achieve an 'old time look', says James. A neat idea if you're trying to go for a retro, nostalgic tone to a painting.

James is using Casein, the 'oldest paint known to man'. 

Two and a half hours later and James has finished his painting.

We hope you got a little insight into how one of illustration's best artists gets behind the story of a painting. 

If you want more James Gurney, then take a tour of the Dinotopia artist's studio and pick up some tips for composition.

James' Vertex Week video, Paint a plein air biplane, will be on site to rewatch, and why not visit his YouTube channel for more pro training.

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