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For the Love of Drawing

By Brendan Seibel

New endeavors require new ways of working. After years in the graphic design and tech worlds, Paul du Coudray decided to change direction by rekindling his love for drawing comics and illustrating stories.

While Adobe Photoshop CC was his graphic design go-to, du Coudray wasn't sure how it would fit his breezy, whimsical illustration style. Then he discovered the digital brushes of Kyle T. Webster.

Webster, who sells his products at KyleBrush.com, creates Photoshop brushes that re-create the natural feel of traditional paint and ink. They were a game-changer for du Coudray.

“I use Wax Resist a lot,” says du Coudray, naming his favorite Kyle brushes. “I use all of the Wamazing, and Brutus, and a lot of the textures like Salt, Spatter, Canvas, and Noise.”

du Coudray employs the brushes fresh out of the virtual box and tweaked to his liking; for example, he’ll draw thick lines with a brush intended for fine ones. “When I find a brush that I like, I immediately rename it to something that’s meaningful to me,” he says. “I sort my brushes into pencils, brushes, fills, textures, and erasers.”

Paul du Coudray captured this time-lapse while he drew “Flowers” using the Kyle T. Webster brushes Watercolor Fine Detail (backgrounds), Wamazing Soft 175 (body, arms, and head), Wamazing Wax Resist (hair and highlights), Wamazing Extra Rough (body), and Natural Edge 2 (leaves).

FROM PROGRAMMER TO PUBLISHER

This tinkering illustrates the love of learning that guides du Coudray through life. An autodidact, he ducked film school to program sequencers for his rock band, supporting himself by picking up freelance graphic design work. The band toured and recorded, and du Coudray advanced into application design and bigger contracts. When the opportunity to move to San Francisco to be creative director of product for Internet behemoth Salesforce came along, he saw it as a complex puzzle to solve.

Every step along the way has been a lesson, and the learning continues. “All of these brushes work as erasers,” du Coudray says, “which I didn’t discover until six months ago, even though I’m a long-time Photoshop user. So you can put them on and take them off with the same brush and it’s a totally different thing than you could do in real life.”

Photoshop layers are integral to du Coudray’s process, particularly non-destructive adjustment layers. He loves chasing creative tangents without ruining a drawing.

“I flip back and forth between versions a lot,” he says. “I’ll get into too much detail and I’ll be able to hide the last five minutes of work, and more often than not the original version was better because it was looser. I’m learning about my own tendency to polish too much.”

When du Coudray started posting time-compressed videos of his process online, it was free advertising, but it was also another lesson. He was spending half of his time refining his work.

“I’m trying to develop a quicker style,” says du Coudray. “Just capturing a facial expression with a looser style that works, that still interests me. The videos put it in front of my face.”

In this time-lapse, we see du Coudray drawing “Shiver” with Watercolor Fine Detail (backgrounds, body, and hair), Watercolor Natural Edge 1 and 2 (shapes), and Wamazing Wax Resist (lines and highlights), all from KyleBrush.com.

Today, du Coudray can’t waste time on overwrought drawings. He’s using Photoshop brushes to adapt the short story “The Orange” by Benjamin Rosenbaum. It will be the first release of du Coudray’s new endeavor Mascot Press, which is slated to publish three books in 2017. Not only is du Coudray on the hook for illustrating a follow-up — Philip K. Dick’s “The Pipers” — he’s also responsible for handling prepress with Adobe InDesign CC. Once the new business is established, he wants to publish original graphic stories, collaborating with authors and illustrators whose style follows the magical realism tradition.

“I want to create relevant works for adults,” he says. “We don’t get to sit on our couch on a Saturday and spend an hour with a fantastic story and great illustrations in something like a picture book that really fulfills us as adults. I have a nine-year-old daughter and I’ve gone through too many years of these kids’ books.”

Family reading aside, du Coudray is happy with his balance of work, art, and life. Mascot Press has cheap warehouse space and a local printer. Freelance app design pays the bills. Splitting time between both keeps him focused without getting bogged down. For right now he has all the tools he needs for new endeavors, even ones that touch on the past.

“Being a visual artist again is a major return to my first love in high school and college,” says du Coudray. “It’s where I think I had the most skill to begin with, but I think I wanted more experience. More life experience to actually incorporate into that and not get sucked into a 9-to-5 job and then maybe when I was older have a crisis of engagement.”