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.

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!

Wagon reading

reading wagon fb edit
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 fb
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.

Bubble bath

bubble bath fb
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.

Kids and books

word up final small fb
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.

Boy with T-Rex

kid and toys colors fb
This image started as yet a further attempt to bring some humans into my portfolio. I was thinking about trying to draw a little kid who is really into playing with his toy airplane. That got me thinking about what I would have done while playing with an airplane, and the most obvious thing to me would be to have it get eaten by a T-Rex! I loved dinosaurs as a kid (and I still do) and tried to incorporate them into all parts of my life:
Here I’ve refined his expression a bit more, and changed the way his nose is drawn. I added a finger to the hand holding the airplane, and changed the way the t-rex’s legs were positioned. I also experimented with adding fuel tanks to the wings of the plane, but decided against it. If you look closely, you can see where I’ve erased them:
Then I started trying to fix his sleeve, which was bothering me for some reason. I finally decided that the angle of the sleeve was wrong, so I redrew it. I also turned his face a bit more to the right, as if he was just looking at the T-Rex, and now he’s anticipating what will happen when the plane gets a little closer:

Boy avoiding snake

boy avoiding snake fb
In my last post, I mentioned that I have been making an effort to include more humans in my portfolio. This piece today is part of that same effort. The same day that I sketched a little kid watching a butterfly, I drew another kid hanging from…something. I wasn’t sure what he would be hanging from, but I liked the sketch I’d done with his little arms behind his head, his eyes looking down with a concerned expression, and his shirt sort of riding up. I wanted to know what he was looking at though, and what he was hanging onto. I went through a bunch of different ideas and scenarios (hanging from a wire in a circus, hanging from a high tree branch where he slipped while trying to get his kite back, etc…), but I eventually decided that since he was a kid, I didn’t want him in too dangerous of a situation, as that would probably cause the viewer to worry about him instead of enjoy the picture. I finally settled on the idea that he was getting away from a snake, tried to climb a nearby sapling, and discovered that it wasn’t able to support his weight. Here’s my initial sketch:
I didn’t really change much when I refined this one. I mainly tried to smooth out some of the details of the tree:
In thinking about the colors for this one, I dressed the kid in colors I tend to like to wear. The blue shirt happened to work out pretty well in retrospect. With all the green surrounding it, it helped to draw the viewer’s eyes to the boy who is the center of interest. The circular composition then gets the eye moving around the image. I wish I could say I had planned that, but the truth is that I only discovered these things after it was finished. I’ll have to keep that stuff in mind though for future illustrations and try to be more intentional about incorporating it.

Thanks for stopping by!