It can be difficult to answer questions like, “How did you come up with the idea for a cow wearing a sun hat?” The truth is that I was in the shower and the image popped into my head: a cow, standing in some water, eating a water plant, wearing a sun hat. Why? I have no idea. I had to sketch it out though, before I forgot about it, so this is my attempt to get the idea on paper:
In the process of sketching, I decided to add a bird to the cow’s back, because it seemed right. Possibly I was influenced by seeing birds sitting on the backs of hippopotamuses in Africa. The bird needed something to do though, so then I drew a frog which the bird was watching. Here is my cleaned up sketch:
Here is my color comp. I decided to try and keep the colors very naturalistic so that the garish color of the hat would really stand out. Fuchsia seemed like a good color at the time:
When I was finished with the paints, I added some white highlights on the water with a white paint pen. This was fun to draw and paint, and I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.
I was riding in the car with my wife one evening after work, discussing ideas for watercolor images, when she suggested a hedgehog playing in the sand. I decided right there to paint that image for her as a gift. My first sketch was not that great:
I felt this hedgehog looked a bit too much like Sonic the Hedgehog, and he looked sort of unhappy, so I started over and came up this sketch:
Here’s my revised sketch, where I decided to clarify what this hedgehog has been building:
I then did a color comp in Photoshop to figure out how to do the colors. Here’s what I settled on:
You’ll notice that in my final I added some ocean to the background, because I got done replicating my comp with watercolors, and I felt like something was missing. The addition of the water seemed to tie everything together. I had a lot of fun painting this hedgehog and my wife loved it!
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!
This is the image for my 2015 Christmas card. I was in a staff meeting at work, and was thinking about undersea creatures (because so far my Christmas cards have featured underwater animals), when this idea of a normally predatory angler fish setting aside his violent tendencies to use his luminescent lure as a “Christmas tree” light popped into my head. Here is my initial sketch:
I figured that I would have a coral shaped like a tree, with some starfish to look like decorations. I eventually got rid of the various other fish though, because I really liked the look of the little dumbo octopus (a real deep-ocean octopus) I’d drawn, and decided to just have more of them. I also added an eel to look a little like a streamer wrapping around the tree. Here is my cleaned-up sketch:
I think those octopuses look really cute, and I am particularly proud of the gentle and satisfied expression on the face of the angler fish. The finished image is pen and ink with watercolor (and a little help from Photoshop). I’m really pleased with how it turned out.
This painting started out as a Valentine’s Day present for my wife, who loves owls. It took a while to work out how to draw owls who look distinctly male and female, but I worked it out eventually through size and the the indication of eyelashes of the female. Here is my pencil sketch, tinted a bit sepia with Photoshop:
I added little patterns in their chest feathers as a reference to things we each like. I put the triforce symbol from Legend of Zelda on the female because my wife loves those games and I added the Star Trek: The Next Generation symbol to the male because I love that show. They still exist in the original painting, but I digitally edited them out for this portfolio example. I inked the image in brown ink because I thought it would look good with the colors I would use. I painted the male brown because I have brown hair, and the female yellow because my wife is blond. I think it turned out well and my wife really loved it.
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):
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!
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:
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.
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.
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!