The balloon kid

At one point, feeling like I had no inspiration for new images, I turned to Facebook for suggestions, and my Dad offered me several, including, “a kid with a balloon tied around his wrist which is lifting him off the ground, while his mother walks along with him, unaware.” I really liked this suggestion and decided to sketch it out:

I wanted to add a little bit of background, so I decided to set the scene in a park, and added flowers and a bench. I texted my wife for outfit suggestions for the mother, since I’m not really into fashion. I’m not sure why I chose toned paper for my original sketch, because it was difficult to get a nice printout to use for inking. After adjusting the levels and making other tweaks in Photoshop, I was able to print out the sketch to transfer to watercolor paper on my light table:

My first attempt at colors was fairly straightforward in terms of color choices, but I messed up while painting the sky, and I felt like adding the sky was taking away from the impact of the balloon, so I decided to try and add a shape in the background instead, and get rid of the bench and flowers. That strategy didn’t really work for me either:

I messed up the subsequent inks a couple of times, and eventually decided to just go with teh simple background and white sky. Even on my final version, I made a couple of mistakes with the colors, but fortunately I was able to correct them in Photoshop:

This is one of those images which took several attempts to get right, but the end result was worth it. Thanks for reading!

Bubble Girl

I love blowing and watching bubbles, and I’ve been trying to come up with an image involving bubbles for a while. I eventually settled on a girl running with a large bubble wand and her dog chasing along behind her. Here is my pencil sketch:

I used a brush pen and a light table to ink directly on my cold press paper, rather than penciling on the paper and inking over it:

I think this piece turned out pretty well, though I feel like the dog’s jumping-while-running pose could feel a little more natural, but I’m not sure what I need to change in order to do that. I may revisit this idea in a couple of years, but until then I feel I’ve done the best job I can with it. Thanks for reading!

Bug BBQ

A friend of mine challenged me to do some work that would push me out of some of my artistic ruts, namely making characters a bit more cartoony and playing with the relative sizes of everyday objects. I started by sketching what I thought to be an action-oriented, sort of cartoony scene of a guy outside grilling, and fending off a bee which is flying around:

Based on this, my friend suggested I redraw the scene where the bug is much, much larger and being intimidating. Here is the result:

Feedback included making the bug even larger and more intimidating, including more creepy insect details, and emphasizing the physical shock the guy feels at suddenly seeing this bug crashing his bbq:

I finally wound up with this sketch, which I inked and painted for the final image. This exercise was really good for me, and has given me several more things to think about every time I approach an illustration.

Wild birthday party

birthday party fb
A friend of mine pointed out to me that I should have more images of groups of people in my portfolio, which is largely images of one or two figures. He also suggested that I should look at the portfolios of other illustrators and find an image to sort of recreate in my style while keeping the general content and feeling of the original image. I chose an image of a very chaotic birthday party with lots of kids running around doing stuff, a dog, a toddler, and a slightly overwhelmed parent. Here is my first sketch:
I felt like this conveyed the action and feeling I wanted, so I tightened up the pencils and in the process, made a few changes. I added a couple more kids to the background, sort of reposed the Mom so that it seemed like she was in danger of being tripped as she moved through the kids with the cake, and I decided that the kids would be playing with balloon animals and objects. Here is my tightened pencil sketch:
I then made a few more changes after looking at the image with fresh eyes, such as changing the position of the Mom’s legs, the position of the baby, making the pairs of balloons asymmetrical in relation to each other, and making some of the balloon strings more curly, which added even more to the feeling of movement and chaos.
I inked this image traditionally, scanned the inks, and added colors in Photoshop using  a brush that simulates the look of traditional watercolors. I think this image turned out very well, and was a good exercise for me.

Pig in stroller

stroller pig
A few years ago my niece delightedly told me about going to the park and seeing a pig that was being rolled around in a stroller. I thought that was an engaging visual image and decided to try and turn it into a painting. I drew a girl who sort of looks like my niece, timidly approaching a pig in a stroller. I decided that I would have her holding flowers, as if she might be thinking the pig might like to smell or eat them. Here is my first sketch:
I decided that there wasn’t enough context for where this was happening, so I added some background that looked like a park:
I felt like the park bench was sort of crowding the scene, so I changed it around and added a tree:
I decided to paint the pig brown instead of the standard pink, largely because pet pigs tend to be colors other than pink. Over all, I think this one turned out pretty well.

Girl with pinwheels

pinwheel girl fb
A few years ago I was watching my nieces from Alaska running around a park with some pinwheels and decided that I should paint a scene like that. I loved pinwheels as a kid and even when I pick one up now, there is a particular pleasure in moving it around and seeing that wheel turn. I decided to draw one figure instead of two, but gave her two pinwheels. I also decided that her emotion would be one of unbridled joy, with the wind in her face and leaves flying past her. I added the leaves in particular to reinforce the force of the wind, as does her scarf and hair flying around. Here is my basic sketch:
In the inking phase, I decided that instead of loose ‘gusty’ wind lines, I would ink bands of the sky behind her that look reminiscent of wind, but not in the traditional sense. This also allowed me to give the sky an interesting look when painting it. I chose sort of warm pastel colors, with a couple slightly cool ones in there. My final touch was to add white lines for some extra wind, and to help sell the idea that the pinwheels are actually spinning around. I really enjoyed working on this piece and am pleased with how it turned out.

First bike ride

first bike ride
This painting was commissioned by a friend of mine as a Father’s Day gift. She wanted something that would show how encouraging and devoted her husband is to their daughters, and decided to focus on when her oldest daughter first rode her bike without the training wheels. I thought this was a great idea, and did this initial sketch:

As you can see, the father is focusing on his bike riding daughter, but is still aware of, and protecting, his younger daughter, who is very interested in a butterfly. I did a revised sketch which basically followed the shapes in the rough sketch, but I updated and clarified the expressions and clothing. I also tried to make the faces look more like the real people I was trying to depict:

The next step was to try and figure out what how to color the image. Here is my color comp, done in Photoshop. I had access to a video of the event I was depicting, so I was able to be very specific about the colors of the bike, the helmet, clothing, etc., which was very helpful:

When it came to the final painting, you’ll notice that I decided to add some more trees to fill in the background, and I changed the colors of the young daughter’s clothing to reflect the colors of the father’s favorite sports team. This was one of the most detailed paintings I’ve done to date, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. Thanks for reading!

Happy skier

happy skier 4
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:
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.

Office chair ride

chair kid fb 2
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!

Little artist

little artist fb
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!