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:
I 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!
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:
Using 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:
You’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!
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:
I 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:
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!
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!
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.
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.
When I first started working with my art mentor, I spent some time in his studio watching his process and learning about the various materials and tools he uses to create his illustrations. After a couple of hours of that, he suggested that I create a drawing of my own on which to practice what I had watched. I couldn’t think of anything, so I drew an artist who couldn’t think of anything to draw. My mentor suggested that this particular drawing might be a little too complicated for starting out, so I eventually came up with something else, but I hung onto that drawing. I came across it again a few weeks ago while looking through some old papers and decided to try and modify a few things. Here is the resultant pencil drawing:
I’ve been trying to add a bit of ethnic diversity to the humans in my portfolio, so I decided to model this guy after a couple of high school friends of mine from India. I can certainly relate to what this guy is feeling…I often do a lot of “throw away” drawings before hitting upon something that I feel is worth finishing. Inspiration is often an elusive quarry.
I wanted to do an illustration involving a young person in a bath. Initially I thought it would be funny for the scene to take place in a kitchen sink, because I’d recently seen several facebook pictures of parents washing their young children in the sink, but I couldn’t make that idea work. It did give me the idea, however, to show a little guy who had dropped his bath toy and couldn’t reach it. I had some trouble coming up with the right mix of objects to show that this was a bathroom while not cluttering the composition. I settled on a towel rack and a bath mat. I then had to decide whether I should draw the whole tub, or just part. I decided to just show the relevant part of the tub, as the focus of the illustration is on the little boy, and not the tub. This is my sketch:
I had recently noticed a fellow illustrator using blue colored inks for soap bubbles, and decided that I would would give that a try. As it happens, I have a bottle of blue ink that I’ve had for about 6-7 years, and I finally got to use it in this illustration. I feel like the blue helps the bubbles feel lighter than rest of the objects that are outlined in black. I also used a little bit of dry brush technique on the towel to help give it a little bit of texture. I’m really pleased with the overall result.
I created this image for the children’s department of the church which I attend. It was for a fundraiser called Word Up where 1st-5th graders were given passages of Scripture to memorize, and they were supposed to get pledges for the memorization. The proceeds went to an orphanage we support in India. I was teaching 3rd graders in Sunday school at the time, so I used a couple of them for this promotional image. I wanted to have a small group of kids that had diverse ages, sizes, genders and races. Here is my revised pencil sketch:
Sometimes I can see colors for images in my mind and just go paint them, but in this case, it took several attempts to work the colors out. I opened my sketch in photoshop, set the image to ‘multiply, and then colored in a layer beneath it. Looking back, having the blue cover next to the blue sweatshirt wasn’t the greatest idea. Maybe purple would have been better. Here’s the colored sketch I worked from:
One last note, I did the ground shadow on a different piece of paper and then added it in Photoshop after I’d scanned in my group. Most of my illustration is done on ‘hot press’ paper, which means that it has a smooth surface, which I prefer for inking the image. The shadow however was done on a piece of ‘cold-press’ paper which had a little bit more texture to it. I did this because cold-press paper seems to handle flat washes of solid color better.
Towards the end of last year I was asked to do a chicken themed commission, and, while I felt up to the task, I’ve never really drawn chickens before. In preparation for this illustration, I spent quite a while sketching chickens from reference photos. I first wanted to figure out how to draw a chicken that looked like a chicken (because my initial attempts looked more like short-necked geese than chickens), and once I figured that out, I needed to figure out how to give a chicken personality. This piece came out of the ‘attempting-to-give-a-chicken-a-personality’ phase. This image popped into my head while I was thinking about the tender, nurturing aspect of a mother hen:
It took quite a lot of erasing and revising to arrive at this sketched image, but I think it now reads like a real animal with personality. When I think of hens, my first mental impression is the classic red comb and white feathers image, but now that the city of Nashville is allowing residents to keep chickens in their yards, many of my friends have been posting images of their chickens on Facebook and I’m now aware of the wide variety of feather colors and patterns that chickens display and decided to use a more interesting coloring and pattern for this hen. I’m very pleased with the final results.