I create each illustration in stages.
When inspiration first strikes, either from reading a story or imagining one, it evokes a cascade of inner images. While these images are rich and vibrant, they are more often than not jumbled up in my head.
To sort things out, I just sit with the images for a time, mulling them over and examining them from every angle. I look and look and look even more. That looking eventually works a kind of magic, honing and clarifying the choices of what I should illustrate.
And when complete, a very definite sequence of images will have moved forward in my mind, begging for expression.
This is where I think out loud on paper (computer screen now) and pin down the desired sequence of images.
Refining some idea sketches with shadows and light gives me a greater clarity of direction.
Messing about with blobs of color is a fun way to explore possible color harmonies.
Research and Study
Gathering reference material provides clues about light interplay, texture representation, shadow depth, etc.
Design Aids for Details
Pining down the details requires finding references specific to the work in progress. I might use:
- Object models – real or constructed, I use what I can to achieve what I need
- Mannequins & human models – there is no end to the study of anatomy
- Clothing – folds fascinate me, and cloth in actual life is always teetering on the brink of radical change
- Photographs – a digital camera is especially effective in capturing the essence of time-based effects like fabric moving in the breeze or ripples on a pond
- Earlier sketches – ideas and studies from years gone by can prove very useful
- Real world observation – just going out and examining at length the thing I need to paint can be a revelation
Final Precise Layout Drawing
This line drawing serves as a map that I constantly refer back to while painting.
I basically nibble away at an illustration, methodically building up form, texture, and color by applying layer upon layer of semitransparent brush strokes.
While this method is time consuming, I consider the results worth the effort. And it certainly fits my artistic temperament perfectly.
The Values Stage
Using shades of gray ranging from black to white, I first paint loosely and broadly. This is to establish the overall values of the illustration.
I continue with progressively finer brush strokes, still using shades of gray, and work towards establishing the illustration’s details and textures. This is a long process.
At the completion of this stage, the illustration functions something like a black-and-white photo.
I first decide on the colors I’ll use. To optimize my choices, I use a method called a Limited Gamut Palette. It’s a great way to arrive at a harmonious color scheme. I will, of course, stick to these color choices throughout the entire illustration.
I add colors on multiple layers positioned above the value painting. And to create the desired intensities and textures, I build up my chosen colors with tons of semitransparent brush strokes.
And as with the value painting stage, adding color is time consuming.
When I’ve finished adding color, I begin adding highlights and a multitude of additional tiny details.
The illustration remains a work in progress until I am overwhelmed with the feeling that all is complete.