Hi! I’m Scott Reeves.

I’m a freelance illustrator and designer. I’m also an instructor at Arizona State University’s Design School. This site is where I post my finished work, my daily sketches, and short articles about design, illustration and learning.

New Sketches (June 17-23, 2018)

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5 Sketches

This week’s sketches are grayscale composition studies of paintings by Mead Schaeffer. Each study is a simplified version of the original painting using 3-4 shades of black, gray and white. The goal is to analyze and understand how the artist assembled the basic shapes of the composition.

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New Sketches (May 27-June 2, 2018)

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Each summer I work on an illustration or design project. For 2018, that project is “Build a New Fantasy Illustration Portfolio.” It’s been several years since I’ve done much genre illustration, so I’m basically starting from scratch, with sketches and practice renderings. In a few weeks, I’ll move into actual illustrations. In the meantime, here are some of last week’s sketches.

These are all creature heads. Some of them are studies of real-world animals. Some of them are new. They’re based on the “Big Game Trophy Heads” exercise from Marc Taro Holmes’ book Designing Creatures & Characters.

Make it Mobile

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Each day this week, pick a product that sits in one place for most of its life. Imagine how that product would change if it could move around, and sketch the new product. Here are some examples:

  • A refrigerator that could wander around your house
  • An alarm clock that could fly out of reach when you won’t get up
  • A desk chair that could take you underwater

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Light and Shadow

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Each day this week, choose a product you can comfortably sketch in 10-15 minutes. Place that product under a strong light source, and position it so you can clearly see areas that are in the light and areas that are in shadow. Then sketch the product, paying close attention to the lighting. Since these products should be relatively easy to sketch, you’ll have plenty of time to focus on the lighting.

If you have trouble with light and shadows, focus on the major forms. Ignore the surface details and make sure the overall form looks correct. When your form is mostly a cylinder, then shade it as a simple cylinder first. After that, you can go back and add-in the details. The same goes for boxy forms, spherical forms, and just about anything else. Read More

Products in a Space

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Choose a space that includes several different, but related, products. It could be a small space, like a kitchen cabinet full of dishes, or a large one, like a parking lot full of cars.

For each of the first four days this week, draw a different product from this space. Depending on your product, you may need to adjust its complexity so it fills a 30-minute sketching session. If you’re drawing simple objects, like plates or drinking glasses, you may want to stack them up, or put a few of them into a group. If you’re drawing complex objects, like cars and trucks, you may want to ignore most of the surface details and focus on the major shapes. Read More

Sets of Identical Products

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Each day this week, sketch a set of identical (or nearly identical) products. Choose simple products, like a group of pushpins on a desk, a set of wrenches on a workbench, or a set of kitchen knives in a knife rack.

Arrange your products in an interesting way. For me, the easiest way to do this is to have most of the products doing the same thing, with 1 or 2 products doing something different. This will draw viewers’ attention to the differently-positioned products, so you might want to add a little extra detail there. Read More

Good Lines vs Bad Lines

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Line drawings are quick, and they communicate a lot of information. Make sure your linework is communicating the right information by following these guidelines.

Good lines are clear. The viewer knows exactly how your product looks in the real world. When they look at a line they can tell immediately whether it is the edge of a form, or something on its surface. They never have to guess what a line is showing.

Bad lines are vague. The viewer has trouble imagining your product in the real world. They can’t tell product edges from surface details. They may have to guess where the important lines are and what they are showing. Read More

Movie, TV, & Game Props

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Each day this week, sketch a prop (or some other manufactured object) from a movie, TV show or video game. You can do multiple views of the same object, or sketch a new one each day.

Each sketch should only take 20-30 minutes, so keep your sketches simple. Make sure the overall shapes are clear before you zoom in on the details. If you’re doing multiple views of the same product, try zooming in or out for some views, instead of just rotating around the product. Some views could even bleed off the page. Read More

Good Drawings vs Bad Drawings

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Drawing instructors like to encourage our students to practice. We teach in 3-hour studios instead of 1-hour lectures. We give sketchbook assignments. We write daily sketch prompts. We say things like, “Drawing is the best way to learn how to draw.”

Why are your instructors so keen on practice, especially daily practice? It has to do with three learning concepts: active learning, distributed practice, and critical thinking. Basically, people learn best when they use new skills regularly, and carefully evaluate their performance. Using your skills (instead of just reading about them or listening to a lecture) is the active learning. Using them every day (instead of just when class meets) is the distributed practice. And carefully evaluating your work (instead of walking away as soon as a project is done) is the critical thinking. Read More

Text in Perspective, Part 2

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Last week, you made observational sketches of text in perspective. You looked at products and packaging with text on the surface, you put them in 2-point or 3-point perspective views, and you sketched them. This week, you’re going to do something similar. But instead of drawing what you see, you’re going to put your own text onto the products.

Each day this week, sketch a simple product in 2-point or 3-point perspective. Then sketch some text onto the surface. This could be a brand name, instructive text (like the “Left” and “Right” text you see on some headphones), or ad copy. It should also be new text that you’re adding to the surface, rather than text that’s already there. Read More