Blog Archives

#FrankieWIP Editing and New Digital Illustration!

Frankie Av

Editing of Emergence is going well! Took a couple of days off writing to draw, and I’ve included it in this video! Tell me what you think of it! It’s also under the video 😉
It took me a couple of days and I created it on my Cintiq and Artrage 😀

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F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

#WeCreate My Little Pony Picture

Frankie Av

Just a quick doodle I drew while taking a break from writing. I asked a My Little Pony group I’m part of who they would like me to draw, and they chose Gingerbread and Minty. This is the result 🙂

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F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

#WeCreate Robogirl

Frankie Av

I finished this illustration last night and uploaded it during a period of low self esteem, therefore my imagination completely failed me when it came to giving it a name. There is more to the story of this digital illustration and perhaps I will go back one day and update her backstory. As it stands, she is merely Robogirl, tied to her own insecurities and perceptions, an echo of her creator.

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Created on Wacom Cintiq and Artrage.

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi  MALEVOLENCE

#WeCreate My Wacom Cintiq!

Frankie Av

This week, I managed to get hold of something I’ve wanted for a very long time.

I’ve been using a Motion LE1700  tablet PC as a drawing slate, and have loved the art I’ve been able to produce on it. But the screen began to dull, getting progressively darker as the years went on. It got to the point that deciding colours was difficult as they came out much darker than intended. So I decided it was time to replace my poor old Motion tablet, and just keep it for sketching when I’m out and about.
I looked around the internet for a replacement, always gravitating back towards the top of the line Wacom Cintiq drawing slates. Highly expensive, I could never justify such a cost for the amount of hobbyist art I produce. Perhaps if I was a professional I might consider the cost, but then, it really didn’t have to be expensive, nor exactly brand new for that matter.

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Therefore I started looking for a second hand Wacom Cintiq, an older model which would suffice my needs. I did a lot of research and looked at recommendations from around the globe and came to the conclusion that the 2007 Cintiq 12wx would be the perfect tablet for me. It has the same size screen as the one I currently use. It is an older model highly praised as a continuing ball player in the display/pen graphics tablet field. Wacom continue to support the tablet with drivers and such, with drivers for Windows 7, 8 and 10.

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When I looked on Amazon, this particular tablet costs a fortune. It is still very much sought after and of course, sellers with this knowledge charge inordinate amounts of money for such a prized item. There were also some sites selling the slate brand new, for £1000… So I looked to Ebay, and found a few for sale. As I get too trigger happy when bidding on things, I left the bidding to my husband. He is a skilled bidder!
We were outbid on the first one by £60, but there were three more to bid on. One in particular caught my eye, finishing the following day with two pens. I contacted the seller, asked about the condition of the screen. The seller was good enough to send me a very clear photo of the screen and it appeared to be pristine. As I was working when the auction ended, I asked my husband to bid on it and let me know what happened. I received a text during my break; my husband managed to win the Cintiq, for less than half the price I expected!!

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My new Wacom Cintiq was delivered the day before yesterday. I followed its delivery on the courier map, literally bouncing in my seat the closer it came. I ran a running commentary with my friends on the Line app–I’m sure they were fed up with my excited squeals that morning! Then I began to doubt the transaction. What if I got it so cheap because there was something wrong? What if the photo I was sent had been cleaned up? What if I had squandered my money on a useless tablet which wouldn’t boot up when I finally got it?! These are the things you have to consider when buying from auction sites, and I always keep them at the back of my mind. But this was an expensive piece of kit, and one I had been wanting for years. If it didn’t work or wasn’t what I expected, I would be out of pocket and heartbroken.

I needn’t have worried.

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The Wacom Cintiq came fully protected in its original box and with all items required to run it. The two pens were included, both of which are worth £160 alone. After being in the courier van and warehouse for a night, the Cintiq was cold and had a sheen of damp from the cold temperatures, so I was forced to leave it alone until it heated up and dried off. My OCD made me clean every single part of it before leaving it to heat up for a couple of hours. It was a long couple of hours. I tried to write and failed, managing little more than 500 words. I kept thinking about the Cintiq and what I would draw!

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Finally I was able to set it up. It didn’t take too long, perhaps fifteen minutes by the time I set everything out and found the ports and sockets I needed. When I booted it up, I sat there, staring at this nice, bright and clear screen. It draws perfectly, with levels of brush sensitivity I’ve been unable to enjoy on the Motion due to the nature of its digitizer. The Cintiq is everything I expected, and everything I thought it should be. Intuitive, clear, bright, sharp and easy to use. I sat for an hour or two, just sketching and doodling and finally decided to make a proper first picture. This is it:

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It is worth having at look at the second hand market for things you want as, sometimes, you manage to snatch the deal of the century. 😉

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

#WeCreate Creative Gifts for a Dragon

Frankie Av

Art come in many forms, and this week I was presented with two very special creative pieces which left me very happy.

The first one was actually started a few weeks ago when Sam began writing a fanfiction based on my book Malevolence. She based the story before the happenings in Malevolence, way back when Louise first developed the MA3 serum which caused so many problems for my characters. We got to see Louise and her marvelous mind at work, and witnessed the lengths she would take to successfully create Mentis. The final chapter went up a few days ago and reached a momentous climax which left me grinning like an idiot. Sam captured Louise’s ego-driven malevolent nature perfectly and provided a part of the story I had not contemplated writing. As I have said before, fan fiction is special and a valid writing form, as it allows fans a glimpse into the lives of characters from books, television shows and films that they wouldn’t normally get a chance to see. Sam provided such a story and I absolutely loved it!
You can find her story here.

The second piece of art I received was from Chaos. It was my birthday on Wednesday and she drew me a picture as a present. I did not expect the gift and when I opened it, I knew exactly what I was looking at!

It is a picture of Logan McKenzie from my book Malevolence! Chaos has read the first chapter of the sequel–Emergence–and was able to create a digital artwork from that one chapter alone. If you have read Malevolence, you will know what happened to Logan and should recognise the emotions behind the art. Logan’s posture, his pensive expression and the colours used completes a scene which perfectly captures the first chapter and Logan’s frame of mind. I absolutely love it! I love it so much I even have it set as my background image on my laptop!

So no matter what your creative outlet is, whatever you create is worth creating. It might make a rather miserably frustrated Dragon who can’t upload her PDF file,  smile 😉

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

#WeCreate Seraphina: Digital Painting

Frankie Av

A short video showing the drawing process on my latest digital painting; Seraphina.

Full drawing below video 😉

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

#FrankieWIP Yu-Gi-Oh! Inspiration, Art, Writing and Outtakes!!

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Some fangirling today! Got a new figure to add to my collection! Some news on the writing front as well as new art! Hope you enjoy!
Comments, shares and feedback welcome 😉

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

#WeCreate How I Make Trailers

Art has been a big part of my life since I was a child. I taught myself many of the skills I have today, including digitally produced artwork. I shied away from digital art for many years as it was looked upon as an inferior skill. This was mostly because of the *undo* tool. You can not magically *undo* a mistake on a real painting, even though there have been times I dearly wished I could. I even recall a comment on a truly beautiful piece of digital work on Deviant Art one day, in which a person wrote;
“It’s a pity it’s not real art.”

Of course, this comment sparked a long and bitter debate, one of many which could be read a few years ago all over art forums. Now, digital art is seen in a completely different light. It is finally recognized to be not only an art-form, but a special tool which gave rise to phenomenal digital artists and became an integral tool for special effects artists in movies and television.

These days, digital art dominates 90% of the artwork I create. There are various reasons for this; it is less messy, I don’t need a lot of storage for my art, it’s environmentally friendly and enduring. And because sometimes, I just can’t be bothered dragging out the canvas, easel and paint brushes just to paint what is in my head. Here is some of my work:

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You can also find more at my Deviant Art page.
I was really just learning to make somewhat decent artwork when an international competition was announced for my favorite television show; Stargate Atlantis. Entrants had to create a video about the show to win. My friends pushed me to enter the competition, but I had no idea what to do. Then one mentioned my artwork and I thought, maybe I could make an animation. So I taught myself new skills, which was an incredibly steep learning curve as I only had a month to learn, create, and enter my submission. I went on to make three very short  animations for the competition. Even though they were badly drawn and terribly animated, I actually won the competition. I went on to make another four animations for two different shows. As you watch, you can see the difference a few years of practice can make, even though I know I can do even better if I made another now.

First Stargate Atlantis animations:

Second set of animations I made for Supernatural:

Most recent animation, created for the show Hollyoaks:

When I wrote The Scientist’s Daughter, I decided to create a trailer for it. It was made around the time of those first animations and is a very simple, short and to the point advertisement for the book.

When I finished writing Malevolence, I decided to create another trailer. Up until now, I had never considered 3D art, believing it to be too difficult to learn. But I wanted a certain look for Malevolence so looked into using a 3D rendering program to create some neurons as a backdrop for the trailer. This was a far steeper learning curve as I had never attempted 3D rendering before. Luckily I found a video on YouTube tutorial with exact look I wanted to create. While my version isn’t quite as professional as theirs turned out, it was good enough as a backdrop for me. I only gave myself a few days to learn the rendering and come up with a finished trailer. Perhaps with some foresight, I would have had the trailer ready to go when the book was published, rather than rush to create it in the days following the launch.

I’m often asked how I actually get the drawings into the computer, how I animate them, and how I make them into a video. So for the next couple of weeks, I intend to explain the different tools I use to create all the things that go into my artwork and animations. There is probably an easier way, but this is how I taught myself to do it and I’m quite happy to continue this way.

This week, let’s look at the very first thing in the process; the artwork.

I use two systems for my digital artwork. Adobe Photoshop CS2 on my laptop and graphics tablet and pen. I have three graphics tablet, two A4 and an A5. This is the A4 one I use the most:

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Since it is an older program, you can download CS2 for free by registering with the site. The other system I use is a Motion LE1400 tablet pc with digitized screen and pen running the art program, Artrage.

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I also use a two-fingered glove called a SmudgeGuard, which stops marking the screen or my hand dragging on the surface while drawing. 

Both systems have their uses. I prefer to draw on the tablet pc as you draw straight on the screen which is natural and intuitive. With the graphics tablet, you draw to the side while watching the screen. I’m used to it, so it doesn’t bother me, but it is certainly easier to use the digitized screen of the tablet pc. I like to finish artwork off on the laptop as Photoshop seems to give a better finish.

In the following gif, you can see the stages of drawing, from sketch to finishing.

dinogifIf I wanted to animate this drawing, I could do it in two different ways. Create a new layer and slightly change the position of the dinosaur over and over until I had a sort of flick book animation giving the impression of movement.
The second way-and my favorite way to animate-is by making different layers from parts of the body. A layer each for the limbs, one for the tail, another for the head and maybe the body in different positions. I would then save the layers as png files and export them to the next stage of the sequence; animating in After effects. I will show you how I do this, but that is for next week’s #WeCreate blog! 😀

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

#WriteTip Mind Maple

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If you are anything like me, you like to organize your thoughts prior to writing. Maybe you like to create character maps, or jot down scenes which pop into your head at all hours. Perhaps-also like me-you have discovered most of your notes are missing when you need them most!

Since college and university, I have used charts to organize my thoughts and stories. I invariably end up with screeds of paper full of bubble flow charts and scribbled notes. These are eventually thrown in the recycle bin when I am finished with them, which is such a waste.

I recently searched for a way to create these charts on the computer, hoping to find a program which would allow me to have everything in one place, and perhaps be something a little easier on the environment. That’s when I discovered Mind Maple; a delightful idea-mapping tool which allows you to chart all your ideas in one file.

I was certain there would be a steep learning curve in order to create such colourful and interesting charts as the site displays. But what I found after downloading, was a program as easy to use as drawing on a piece of paper.

Have a look at the simple chart I created as an example schedule for this site;

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As you can see, I made our names different colours with matching linking arrows so we know exactly what to do each day. In this chart, my arrows are larger than Sam’s as this is my personal schedule. This took me less than ten minutes to create. You can change the colour of headers, topics, arrows, the boxes, the box lines, add gradients and much more. You can add more than one map per file by clicking at the bottom left of the screen. This means that you can have other charts which are perhaps branches of your primary one:

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With the second map, we can go into more detail of our planning, allowing us to schedule exactly what we wish to write about in the coming weeks and months.

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By adding a hyperlink  to the primary map, you can link it to another document, map, or internet site, thus allowing easy access to your other files.

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This one file, can contain our schedule, topics, links and documents for the Kalopsiad site in one location. There is also a tool currently in Beta mode where you can upload your map to Google Drive and share it. At present this is unavailable due to an API change at Google, but once enabled, it will make Mind Maple better still, as it means you can access your maps wherever you are.

Above, I have given you one simple example of how Mind Maple can be used. In their How To blog, the creators of Mind Maple illustrate various way to use their program. They also share handy tips for creating stunning maps. Some maps they have detailed include teacher’s lesson plan and even one in which a man with a brain injury illustrated how his brain works!

Mind Maple is a very powerful tool, packed full of features which can be used in a variety of different ways. I can now organize my thoughts and ideas while enjoying easy access to everything I need. No more searching around the room for that character sheet. No more raking through drawers looking for my chart book. And no more wasting time searching for lost links! This is quite honestly one of my favourite programs. 

Whether you use Mind Maple to plan out your next few weeks YouTube updates, organize a menu for the coming month with links to custom shopping lists, or even plan and organize your next holiday or novel, Mind Maple is a perfect and easy way to get your ideas down quickly and efficiently with very little learning before hand. It is available for Windows, MAC and IOS, and you can Download it here.

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE