Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Birth of an Illustration

Happy Almost New Year!
I just finished a piece yesterday for the SCAD Society of Illustrators Humane Society show, and documented the making of it to give you guys an inside peek into how I work. Let's dive right in, shall we?
First off, I always like to look up some inspiration, whether it be reference photos of my subject, or other artists' work. For this piece, I knew I wanted to illustrate a cat, which can be much trickier than it seems. Often, "cat art" can seem too childish, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, old-woman-ish. I wanted to try and put a new spin on my feline subject, so I researched a bit. I came across this work by Johanna Ost that has some lovely line work in it.

"Moon" ©Johanna Ost 2007, pen.
I also looked at different quirky styles. I love MarmeeCraft's work, and found this adorable illustration that gave me some ideas.

"Precarious Uniwig" ©Marjorie Liucci. (not sure of date or medium)
Almost done with inspiration- now I top it all off with some wonderful music! (Please excuse the poor quality of some of these photos- they were taken with my phone- the only handy thing available!)

Time to sketch. I usually sketch in pen- just a personal preference. Pencil smears too much for my taste! Pen makes me much more of a brave sketcher. I started with a more naturalistic approach, and quickly realized that wasn't going to work for me, so I drew from MarmeeCraft's "thick-necked" look and sketched several possible backgrounds, choosing the yarn pattern.

My piece needed to be 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches, so I then taped my paper according to size, with a nice one inch border. The paper I used here is some from an Arches Watercolor Block.

Then I mapped out my composition with a mechanical pencil. I tried to not use too many lines, because often those will show through. I just need enough to get the idea.

Next, I started with the watercolors. The paints I used were a variety of brands- Cotman, Windsor and Newton, and Grumbacher, but it's always nice to squeeze a little of each onto a seal-able tray for easy mixing and re-usage. I always like to test my color a bit on the extra space on the paper, just to be sure. Then I began to paint! I just wanted a nice coffee stain look for a backdrop, and mixed a variety of yellows and browns. I first added a layer of clean water, and then added paint, letting it do as it pleased. The messier the better! I wanted some "mess-up" spots on purpose to give it some character, and splatted water here and there.

After that layer dried, I went in again with some darker hues, using a little blue mixed with darker browns. This change is subtle, and hard to see in this picture.

I realized my cat wasn't standing out enough from the background, and since I wasn't planning on adding any more color to her, I needed to lift up some of the color using a clean brush, water, and a tissue to dab it with. The paper's natural selection of what color to keep made a really lovely stain.

I then began to work on the more specific colors for the yarn. I still wanted to keep it loose, since I knew I was doing ink line work over it. I chose subtle purples, blues and browns for a nice complimentary contrast to the yellow hue underneath. Here again, I used a tissue to dab off some of the wet paint for an aged look.

One final touch with paint- the eyes and nose!

I needed to let the paint dry completely (not even having the paper cold to the touch) before I did my line work, so there would be no bleeding. I took a dinner break and came back to paper that was ready to go! Then I began the tedious task of patterning. It's very relaxing- until your hand starts to cramp!

And then I'm finished!

Here is the final work, sans tape and cut to size. If you have fallen in love with my kitty and live in the Savannah area, you are in luck! The piece will be up for sale within the next couple months. I'll have updates on the show in the future.

"Cat" watercolor and ink, 2009.
Another bit of good news- my book came in today! It looks fantastic. The colors are a bit more saturated than I thought, but it really works nicely with some of the images.

That's all for now. Have a wonderful New Year!

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