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Arts and Crafts

Logos & Beauty. Bridging The Gap Between Traditional Art & Digital Design



Alphonse Mucha "Reverie" 1897 | Michelangelo Buonarroti "The Creation of Adam" 1512

Visual Creativity can be a powerful tool and whether you choose to create with nature, on canvas, or on your MacBook pro, it is all based on two foundational elements, Beauty and divine order, or Logos. Do we create as God does? No, but we strive to follow and emulate the path that he lay before us. No matter your skill level or understanding of these elements, we each have an inherent intuition to strive towards beauty and live in logos. 

The visual arts are a way to express and illuminate something greater than ourselves.

No matter the tools you choose to use, visual creativity can become a way to better understand and express the Divine. Are there certain tools or mediums which get closer to Beauty or become a purer form of visual artistic expression? No, toolsets evolve over time, and Art is naturally embedded within Design. There are, of course, Art forms that do not serve Beauty and the Divine, but that is a rabbit hole for another time.

Just as Beauty is better understood through Logos, so too is Art through Design.

Beauty exists through logos. You can debate whether or not this statement is true but there is no denying nature and reality. The argument of whether you can equate Art with Design is the same. With all things creative, the argument is often stirred by the subjectivity of personal style or taste, but this will only lead to more ignorance and uncertainty. Pitting Art and Design against each other, or separating them independently is just as superfluous as the war on the traditional family unit. Yes, Art and Design serve separate functions but they are inherently embedded within the same system. Art often appeals strongly to emotion while Design serves a function. Design is reductionistic and relies on information to communicate whereas Art relies heavily on intuition and feeling to convey meaning. so how do these two realms of creativity connect? To help describe the relationship, let’s take a look at music.

Music is another realm of creativity that is often viewed as very subjective and polarizing. What sounds good to one person is often nails on a chalkboard to another, therefore all auditory sounds can be considered music, right? No, this is extremely wrong; there are natural patterns and structures which allow frequencies to vibrate harmoniously together. Personal perspective, style, or taste do not refute what works naturally. Just as the triadic formula of 1-3-5 creates a harmonious chord and subsequently leads to a progression, so do the natural principles of Design create a harmonious composition and lead to a beautiful piece of art.

Design is the inherent structure of art and allows it to function harmoniously.

The best way to bridge the gap between Traditional Art and Digital Design, and to better understand the relationship of the visual creative field, is to take a look at the underlying principles and elements of Design. There are four main Design principles that digital designers and traditional artists should utilize; Frame, Balance, Hierarchy, and Unity. Within these Design principles are elements. Each element can be used to achieve and ultimately strive towards harmony and Beauty. These elements are contrast, proportion, emphasis, and repetition. 

First, let’s define the elements of contrast, proportion, emphasis, and proportion so we can better understand the overarching principles.

The Elements of Design


Contrast is the state of being strikingly different from something else in juxtaposition. Some basic examples of this are light versus dark, vibrant versus subdued, or textured versus smooth.

Caravaggio | Flagellation of Christ | 1607


Proportion is the comparative measure of scale between objects. Proportion is harmonious when the correct relationship between visual components is achieved.

Georges Seurat | A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte  | 1884 / 1886


Emphasis is concerned with drawing attention to a specific visual component. When done correctly the eye naturally gravitates towards the component being emphasized.

Vincent van Gogh  | The Sower  | 1888


Repetition is the number of repeating components within a composition. Using the same or similar visual elements throughout your design can ultimately help to create a cohesive whole.

Claude Monet | Wheatstacks, Snow Effect, Morning | 1891

The Principles of Design

With the elements of Design in mind, let’s move on to the larger piece of the whole. Design principles can be utilized in order to create harmonious body of work.


Frame is the most important principle. All other principles and subsequent elements work within the frame. You must first identify the confines of your space and realm of which you will create. The size of your canvas comes before the paint medium, just as the paper size comes before designing a poster. 

Framing Proportions


Balance is the visual distribution of weight. Each shape, brushstroke, or visual component takes up a certain amount of space and carries weight within the frame. Where you choose to distribute these components determines the balance of your work. Contrast, size, and shape can be used to achieve balance, as well as utilizing various forms of symmetry. A good example of this found in logo design. The visual relationship between the icon and the name will create a balance of the final mark. 

Symmetrical Balance Verses Asymmetrical Balance


Hierarchy is concerned with order and value. The visual components that are emphasized most will translate to the top of the hierarchy, whereas the components that are de-emphasized will support those at the top. It can be as simple as using proportion, shape, or color to establish a hierarchy. A great example of visual hierarchy is how any generic website is set up. The most important elements, the logo, navigation, header image, and call to action, are all at the top of the browser while supporting content is below.

Hierarchy established by proportion, shape, and color | A generic website grid


Unity gives your work a sense of cohesion and coherence. You are ultimately achieving completeness and connecting everything together. All other principles and elements work together in order to achieve unity. Creating an underlying grid can help achieve a sense of unity. Using natural geometric shapes and ratios to create an underlying grid allows you to work within patterns that naturally make sense. How will you tie the composition together in the end? This is what you should ask yourself while iterating and moving towards your final piece.

The Golden Ratio

Utilizing these underlying principles and elements will help you create a cohesive and complete body of work. With anything creative, iteration, consistency, and practice lead to discipline and understanding. Whether you are naturally talented or have an interest in Art and Design, utilizing these principles will also help you get closer to Nature, Beauty, and Divine Logos in your work.

You will inevitably serve someone or something through your work, so choose to serve the Good, the Beautiful, and the True.

If you have any questions or insights on the matter of Art and Design please reach out directly to


Arts and Crafts

Illustrating a Children’s Book

Show your work early and often. In your communications with the writer, show them your thumbnails, scribbles, and roughs. As artists, we have a tendency to cloister away until we have a polished piece of art; this tendency is detrimental to collaborations.



Illustrating a Children’s Book

So you wrote a children’s book, now what? This article will help writers understand the illustration process and help artists come up with a plan to tackle a picture book project. After working on quite a few children’s books in the past two years, I’d like to share some tips on the process of creating them.

First, you must answer a few questions:

How many pages?

Traditionally, the standard picture book format has 32 inside pages, with the first 4 taken up by copyright, barcodes, and other interesting bits and bobs. That means we have a total of 28 pages to work with in terms of illustrations.

But since the advent of print-on-demand publishing, book lengths have become much more flexible. However, it’s good to keep in mind that the traditional length is what parents and children (a.k.a. your potential readers) are used to, and deviating from it may be a jarring reading experience.

What trim size?

(A few of the available trim sizes.)

Trim size is basically the size of the book. Square books are popular for children, but letter size is also a respectable format. Horizontal picture books are very classy, but not many print-on-demand services offer them. It’s best to research the printers you want to use (KDP, Ingram Spark, Lulu, Blurb, etc.) and then decide which is best for the project.

How many illustrations?

It may be tempting to want a picture on every page, but the picture-to-text ratio is determined primarily by the intended age of the reader. As a rule of thumb, the younger the target audience, the more pictures you’ll want in the book.

Color or black and white?

(Black and white interior illustration for “The Lion Who Forgot”)

You may be wondering why a children’s book would not have color, but as we discussed above, older children often don’t need hyper-colorful images to hold their attention. If you’re illustrating for the 9-12 age range, some stylish black and white ink drawings may be more appropriate, depending on the subject matter.

There are exceptions to this rule; young children are sensitive to high contrasting images, so simple black and white images such as in “The Lion Who Forgot” will work well. 

Another consideration is that color printing will be more expensive than black and white; the more vibrant and intricate the illustrations, the better printing quality you’ll need to use.

Is your style a good fit for the book?

Younger kids like big heads and big eyes that emote clearly; older children can appreciate more sophisticated compositions and moods in a landscape. What’s your strong suit?

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten when I was starting out in art was to never accept a project that doesn’t jive with your style because each project builds your portfolio in a direction you don’t really enjoy. And since you’ll be hired based on your portfolio, your career might take a turn in a direction different from your true talent.

Once you’ve answered these questions and have determined to accept the job, it’s time to take the next step.

The planning phase

1. Thumbnails— your Roadmap

(Thumbnails for “The King’s Colt”)

There are many places online where you can download a thumbnails template. These make it easy for you to see the whole story at a glance and spot obvious story flow issues early.

This is also the best time to work out your creative differences with the writer and avoid the nightmare of revising a fully finished illustration because you didn’t hash it out early.

Thumbnails guide you as you illustrate your way through the manuscript and gives you an easy way to scope out the project and count the cost before building the tower, if you will.

2. The test page and character designs

From the thumbnails, pick a page that has the main character(s), and take it all the way to the finalized stage. Take note of the techniques you’ve used and how long it took you to do them. This allows you to figure out your process and accurately assess the total amount of work involved in the project. From this one exercise, you can extrapolate the amount of time needed for the whole book, the budget the writer will need to come up with for hiring you, and as a bonus, the main character’s design is now hammered out too.

If the writer agrees to go ahead with the style, design, budget, and estimated timeline determined by the test page, you are now safe to dig into the production phase of the illustrations.

3. Streamline your art process

If you’ve paid proper attention to your process during the test page, you should be able to replicate that process for each book page. However, there is inevitably a style shift when a project spans weeks and months, and I’ve found the easiest way to keep the whole book cohesive, and the style consistent is to streamline the process.

This means doing the rough drafts of all the pages, then the line art of all the pages, and finally the color and paint of each page. This may look different for you, but the principle holds; finish the whole book in one stage before moving on to the next.

4. A few technical considerations

When designing your illustrations, keep in mind the following:

• The spine will pinch the middle of the book, so each page has a strip at the spine that will be hidden. That is called the “gutter.”

• Around each page, there is a border that may get accidentally trimmed. It’s best to keep essential bits like faces and text away from that border; this is called the “margin” or “safety.”

• Do your images go all the way to the edge of the page? If so, you’ll need to include an extra “bleed” border around your page, where the image continues to bleed past the edge of the trim size.

The printing service you use should be able to provide a template peculiar to your book’s specifications. Download that template and follow it to the pixel.

5. Formatting the text

(Contrasting text example from “The Peanut Trap”)

There are a few options when it comes to displaying the text. Firstly, your pictures should be composed with the text in mind to integrate nicely. To make the text legible, you’ll need to have the background in a contrasting tone to the text—i.e., dark text, light background, or light text, dark background. There are a few ways of achieving this. If your illustrations don’t have that contrast, you can use a box, a banner, or a speech bubble. 

Another often overlooked option is to format the whole book to have a blank facing page dedicated to text. This is actually an excellent option for all ages, so make sure to discuss the option with the writer you’re working with.

(Example of facing-page text and text on banner)

Some final thoughts

Show your work early and often. In your communications with the writer, show them your thumbnails, scribbles, and roughs. As artists, we have a tendency to cloister away until we have a polished piece of art; this tendency is detrimental to collaborations.

(Hilarious simple thumbnail to final for “Aurora Bearialis”)

The writer may not understand your thumbnails at the outset, but as you take them through your process, they will acquire more and more educated eyes. I can confidently say that the writers of “Aurora Bearialis” are able to decipher my scribbles now.

I hope you found this article useful. Of course, there’s nothing like lessons learned by doing, so go forth and create, my brothers and sisters!


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Arts and Crafts

Drawing the Line



A written guide by Handdrawnbear

What is a line?

Lines don’t exist in nature, it is a two-dimensional construct of the mind in an attempt to understand and represent three-dimensionality.

One might be tempted to think of edges as lines, that is how we describe a cube after all, but there are plenty of objects such as a ball, which has no edges, that also must be described by lines.

Lines are statements about where one surface ends and the next surface begins from our point of view. A line is used to define the limit of our perception, when an object or surface goes beyond our view; like the horizon line, it means we can see this much and no further.

How do we use a line?

It’s more a question of where, rather than how. Lines can be used to describe any object, but first, determine your level of magnification. How lines are used will differ whether we’re drawing a forest, a single tree, one branch, or just one solitary leaf.

We are informing the viewer where the edges of our perceptions are for this particular drawing, which will be defined by the level of magnification of the subject.

Drawing a forest means defining the edges and boundaries of the forest, therefore we must not concern ourselves with defining the edges and boundaries of each leaf.

Likewise, drawing a chicken means we can’t be tempted to define each feather; drawing a bear precludes us from focusing on every hair. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Handdrawnbear’s approach to drawing.

I can only speak for myself here, but the approach I take with any drawing is to use the least amount of lines possible, and start with the most important lines. Just as brevity is to wit, economy of lines is to a drawing. No one likes a line-salad of a drawing.

Let me explain. Say we’re drawing a bear, if you could only use one line to describe that bear, what would that line look like? I usually choose the line of the spine from nose to heel, which describes the posture of the animal.

Next, if you could only describe the bear using two lines, which line would you add? I’d put in the head in this instance. And then from there we continue to build the drawing from most important to least important lines, also known as drawing from the general to the specific.

This approach not only helps organize the drawing process, but also ensures that if we’re drawing from life and the subject moves or wanders away, we have put down as much essential information on paper as possible.

These methods have served me well over the years, and I hope you find them helpful, too.


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Arts and Crafts

How to Draw Faces – A Quick Introduction

A written guide and video by Handdrawnbear



A written guide and video by Handdrawnbear

There was a fat little Asian kid who sat alone at every lunch break, furiously scribbling on stacks of scrap paper salvaged from the classroom recycling bins.

This is how I spent my public school days, not a minute was wasted on “learning.” Now, I confidently say that I can draw anyone I lay eyes on. It’s not a boast, quite the contrary, drawing is the only way I can truly understand what anything actually looks like. My husband is often exasperated by how mechanically illiterate I am, I answer him honestly, “Dear, I’ve never drawn a car engine.”

Now you might say, but Handdrawnbear, I’m not as weirdly wired as you, how can I learn to drawn everyone?

Let me first clarify, we are speaking here only of observational drawing, which differs from technical or architectural drawing in function and form.

Drawing is a language, but not a hieroglyphic one. Hieroglyphs are preconceived symbols, clichés if you will. How would you like to read a novel written only in clichés and figures of speech? You wouldn’t like it at all. Even though symbols may be a shortcut to meaning, they are also extremely limiting; if you don’t have a glyph for something, then you can’t describe it.

Instead, when you draw from observation, look at it with the eyes of a blind man who’s just been given his sight. Throw out your preconceived notions of what anything should look like and really see what you’re trying to describe with your drawing.

When drawing someone’s face, really look at them and see what makes it unique from other faces. These three legends below could all be described as “a bearded man”, but they are actually so very different from each other.

Woodshopbear has a very striking countenance, his eyes are farther apart than the average man which gives him a very intense look.

Westsidebear’s soulful eyes are like gems if you can find them in his sheer amount of hair.

BigBear’s cheeks are like tall shields over which his sharp eyes pierce through and sees your browser history.

Everyone has an ideal average face in their mind, but it’s the departure from the average that individualizes each face. There is a danger in exaggerating features however, as you veer further away from reality you may venture into the monstrous. The way to avoid this is love and charity, it may sound funny but it will show through your drawing. I am unable to make someone I despise look good, and I’m probably not alone.

Of course, practice makes perfect, or as close to perfection as we can get this side of the eschaton. So draw everything, draw all the time. Draw from life whenever possible. Don’t be precious about your drawings. Craft comes before art, it’s hard before it’s easy. But whatever you do, never trace a photograph. Tracing is a useless exercise that gives instant gratification but no lasting benefit.

Drawing is observation and adoration combined. Because this realm is full of beauty, drawing is a reply in kind, a dialogue with creation.

Don’t seek accolades, you’ll only find emptiness; instead, give with your craft relentlessly to those you love, and you’ll find tribe and so much kindness and gladness in return. This is the beautiful truth I’ve encountered with the community of Bears.

And that little fat Asian girl? Well, she’s still drawing and learning to see. 

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