Suave koala

Suave koala
I’ve been wanting to do a watercolor image of a koala bear for a while now, but it took me a while to come up with an image I liked. My first ideas were two koalas, presumably a couple, sipping champagne while enjoying the sunset, or a koala in a hammock with his leg drooping over the side while he munched on a eucalyptus branch, but I couldn’t really get those images to work visually. Finally, I drew a koala dressed up in a suit, looking like a super spy (at least that’s what he was in my mind):
suave koala
I inked the image on cold press paper, and then he sat around on my art table for 2 months or more while I did other stuff. When I finally got back around to coloring this image, I forgot that in my sketch, his glasses were supposed to be sun glasses, so now he looks more like an aristocrat than a spy, but I still like how he turned out. I used gray with varying amounts of water added to it for most of this image and I’m still really enjoying working on the cold press paper compared to the hot press I used when I first started. Thanks for reading!

Panda mother and cub

Panda Mom and Cub
I was thinking about painting an animal mother and child, and having recently seen the pandas at the Atlanta Zoo I decided to give them a try. Pandas are adorable, but it took a while to pose these two so that the dark areas wouldn’t just blend into each other. Here’s my pencil sketch:
panda sketch
Up to this point, I’ve been using hot press watercolor paper for my paintings because I wanted to have a smooth surface for inking. I don’t really like how the paints act on the hot press paper though, whereas the rougher cold press paper spreads and holds the paints much better, so with this painting I tried cold press. I wasn’t sure how the inking would be, but it turned out to not be a problem. I decided to build up to a dark brown rather than straight black for the dark areas of the fur, which would allow me to add some volume to the figures. I think I’m going to be using cold press from now on.

Happy skier

Happy Skier
This excited young skier came from my desire to draw a child who is delirious with joy. I settled on a girl who has just made it to the bottom of a ski slope for the first time. Here’s my initial sketch, loosely inked up so that I can easily see the lines on my light table:
happy skier sketch
My mental image for this image became my sister-in-law when she was skiing as a child. With that in mind, I chose brown hair and dressed her in orange and blue because she’s a Florida Gators fan. I imagined that her cheeks and nose would be fairly rosy from the cold wind, and that also helped me add some dimension to her face. My wife and I bought our first house last fall and this is the first painting that I did in my new studio, so it holds a special place in my heart.

Leopardess and cub

Leopardess and cub
A couple of years ago, a co-worker of mine started suggesting that I should create a watercolor image of a leopard, and she has continued to suggest this at various times ever since. I like leopards (though my office isn’t filled with leopard skin patterned items as is her office) but I never seemed to be able to come up with an image of a leopard that I liked. I like to create images that tell a story, but I just couldn’t seem to find the story for this leopard. Finally, I hit upon the idea of a leopardess watching her young cub attack her tail. Using this as a starting point, I spent several days on my final sketch, using photo reference to change and refine the pose, the anatomy, the coat pattern (which I didn’t finish on purpose) and the facial expressions until I arrived at this sketch:
leopard fbI didn’t intend to include the spots in my inked image, but rather planned on adding them with paint, which is why I didn’t complete the coat pattern in my sketch. I will admit to being nervous about the coloring process for this image because it is a more complex image than I’ve colored before. I started with the yellow-orange over both the leopardess and cub, then added the spots with a dark brown, and finished by adding shadows with a sort of blue-gray over top of both to sort of unite them. I was so relieved when I was done! I darkened some of the spots in Photoshop, but otherwise I was pleased with the result, and will be more confident about doing coloring like this in the future. Thanks for reading!

Office chair ride

Office chair ride
Completing a set of 25 images to act as my official watercolor portfolio last Fall was a big accomplishment for me, representing about a year and a half of work to become comfortable with the tools and process of creating watercolor illustrations. Following its completion, I wound up taking a break from watercoloring for a while, in part to work on actual art requests from a publishing house which I got after sending them my portfolio. It felt very satisfying to complete those art requests!

After taking a few months off though, I felt that need to continue with my watercoloring though, so this is the first of some new images I’ve created. It is inspired by a co-worker of mine who brought her son to work. She was pushing him around on her office chair and I made a quick sketch because I liked that image so much:
office chair fbUsing Photoshop and my light table, I made this sketch a bit larger, and then transferred it to a sheet of card stock. I reworked the pose, expression and details until I was happy with them:
office chair revised fbYou’ll notice that I changed his expression a bit, changed his hair to look like it was blowing in the wind, drew his leg and foot in, and made sure that all the wheels of the chair were facing the same direction (if you look at my rough sketch, you’ll notice that all the wheels are facing different directions…I was clearly not paying attention). I’m not sure if I should have drawn in the little movement lines or not. I decided against them because I felt like the flowing hair was enough, but I’m still second guessing that decision. I’m still pleased with the result though. Thanks for reading!

Little artist

Little artist
This is the final image I created before considering my portfolio “complete” for the first time. I had created two boys to help round out the ethnic diversity of the humans in my portfolio, so I wanted to draw a little girl. I sketched a bunch of ideas that I was dissatisfied with before drawing this little artist. The sketch that sparked this idea came sort of by accident though. I showed up about 10 minutes early for a meeting, and used the extra time to sketch, and was excited and surprised to end up sketching this:
little artist rough fbI thought this sketch had a lot of potential, so I enlarged it a bit on my computer at home, printed it out, and then, using my light table, traced the sketch on a clean sheet of card stock. I then cleaned up my sketch and made changes until I was happier with the pose, expression, and the other details. Here’s the refined sketch:
little artist fb
I just can stand how cute her face and expression are! I feel like I lost a little of that in the final artwork. I still can’t decide if I should have added highlights to the skin on her face, but I was sort of afraid of doing that. You’ll notice that the colors of the beads on her hair ties match the crayons on the floor…that’s a combination of laziness and artistic balance. I didn’t add any yellow to the picture she’s holding up because I didn’t think it would show up. Overall, I’m really pleased with how this came out. It felt nice to finish up my portfolio with this image. Thanks for reading!

Wagon reading

Wagon reading
As I discussed in my last post, this past Fall I was close to having enough strong pen and ink with watercolor images to fill my portfolio, and was trying to shore up the weaknesses that I perceived in the represented content, namely the lack of ethnic diversity among the humans. I created 3 images specifically to address this need, and this is the second of those images. I settled on a teenage boy who is enjoying some reading outdoors. I wanted to invoke the idea that this is occurring during his summer vacation, so I put him in a tank-top style undershirt, gave him a ball cap, and made him barefoot. Here’s my initial sketch:

I love to read outside, and I love going around barefoot, and I have those glasses he’s wearing, so I can see a lot of myself in this image. I think the wagon is probably a nostalgic, residual image from all the Calvin and Hobbes strips I’ve read, because, despite the fact that I didn’t personally do much with a wagon, I associate the idea of a wagon with summertime.

Once I had finished painting this image, I decided that the tall grass I had drawn around the stump was unnecessary and visually distracting, so I removed it with Photoshop. If I had it to do over again, I would probably make the stump a little darker behind the wagon wheel so that they don’t blend together as much, but overall I’m pleased with the result. Thanks for reading!

Singing on the plain

Boy singing

As I neared the number of pen and ink with watercolor images that would make up a healthy portfolio (20-25), a friend suggested that I should add a few more ethnically diverse children to the mix. I took the suggestion to heart, and created three more illustrations, the first of which was this image. It started off as a kid who was singing at the top of his voice, but I envisioned him on a stage or something. I wasn’t sure how I would show that though, without having to draw a whole scene with a full background, and as that isn’t the kind of illustrations I have in this portfolio, I felt stuck. Eventually, for some reason, I started drawing a rock underneath my singer, and it just immediately felt right to me. Here was a kid who was out walking, found this rock, and, noticing that he was alone, began belting out his favorite song. I can relate to this as I used to lock up a church at night, and would take advantage of the empty rooms to sing loudly without worrying that I was off key or singing the wrong words. Here is my cleaned up pencil sketch of this young man:

For my coloring choices, I went with mostly earth tones. I created this image in the fall, so I’m sure that subconsciously influenced my decision to make the grass look as if it’s beginning to die. I am really pleased with how the shading on the rock came out. It looks very true to life, to me at least. I’m also getting better at the shading on people’s faces. I have a tendency to over do the shading, but here I think it’s just right.

Little Dancer

Little Dancer

As I close in upon completing my portfolio of spot illustrations, I have been focusing exclusively on humans due to the fact that my portfolio is still what some might call ‘animal heavy’. I love animals and love drawing and coloring them, but I assume that art directors will want to see that I can draw and paint a variety of humans as well. My wife and I spent a Saturday lunch a few weeks ago brain-storming a number of human illustration ideas over delicious plates of Chinese food, and one of her most inspired ideas was, “What about a little girl dancing to the tune of a ballerina music box? Maybe she’s trying to mimic the pose.” I could immediately see that image in my head, and it was easily the best suggestion that either of us came up with during that lunch. Here is my pencil sketch:

I spent a long time revising this drawing. It’s very easy for me (and most artists, I think) to get so bogged down in the details of images that I lose sight of the overall image. I would spend a lot of time just focusing on the positions of the fingers on her hand, only to realize when I looked at the whole image that she now looked like she had two claws! Once I’d found a decent balance between simplicity and detail, I played around with the colors in photoshop. Here is the colored sketch that I worked from:

When I set to inking this image, I was very careful to keep my lines light. I knew that this was a delicate image, and even one sort of heavy ink line could ruin that sense of delicateness. I’m pretty happy with how this came out.