I finally finished all of the paintings for my book, barring any minor changes. It is such a huge relief to have gotten my first book to this point. If ever you have had any desire to illustrate a book, I highly recommend it. I am learning so much from this experience. I have a new found appreciation for this kind of work. Making any image is difficult. Making twenty something images that work together was extremely daunting.
I have been asked a number of times to explain my process, of working, so here it is.
First I develop a sketch. This sketch is actually pretty small. It is about the size of a post- it note. Sometimes it is easier for me to see how my designs are working when they are smaller. After I have the bigger design issues resolved, I will blow up the image and start to work larger.
With this drawing, I quickly scanned it and made corrections directly in Photoshop. I have found it really helpful to work early in photoshop, because it gives me the opportunity to figure out how the type layout will work with the image. It is also helpful to have all of your layouts up on the desktop, because it allows you to look the book as a whole.
Once I'm ready to start painting I usually will make a color comp. On this painting it was especially important, because it was the first painting I did for the book and it was important for me to have a game plan. The time I spent making the comp, was made up for because the final painting went faster.
For my initial lay in on a painting, I treat my paint like watercolor. I work light and extremely wet with my paint. I usually have a bunch of puddles all over the paper and as I lay down the paint, I will usually babysit these puddles, to make sure that the edges of the puddles are not making any "unhappy accidents".
When I am ready to do a final painting, I use Strathmore 500 series illustration board- cold press. I like to experiment with different paper textures, but I often come back to this paper, because it is tough. I am hard on the paper surface because I flood area with a lot of water and remove paint out, with coarse brushest. The board will not warp if you tape it down to something. I have my paintings taped down to a piece of Gator Board, with watercolor tape.
The image above shows my general lay in. I try t think about the temperature of the light and shadows early on. Since watercolor is a process of working light to dark, I try to lay in reflected light and ambient light in the shadows early. for example, even though the Giant has dark brown hair,, I knew that I wanted the highlight of his hair to be cooler. therefore I mixed a lot of cerulean blue into the highlights, before laying in the dark brown tones.
In this picture you can also see how my workspace is set up. Along with my board, numerous reference books, and paper towels to take water off my brush, I keep a test strip taped to my drawing board. This helps me to know what kind of a mark I will make, and whether I have the right color, before I put it down on the actual painting.
I really enjoy creating texture in my paintings. For the background I lay down my paint, and before it was completely dries, I come in with a crumpled plastic grocery bag and pad down the board. After I stop hitting the board, I am left with a pebbled organic texture. I then go in with a brush when the texture is dry and pick out little areas of detail, to make it feel like a stone wall.
At this stage, I am just continuing the process of building up color with sloppy puddles of paint, all the while babysitting these puddles, to make sure that they do not invade my highlights.
I like to allow the puddling to happen because it creates interesting texture and also because it softens unwanted details. I find that allowing an area of a painting to flood, can help me determine my focal points. I will also flood an area of the painting, to lift out paint. This helps me make corrections to areas that I want to change, or to lift out highlights and details. I started doing this after I read Bert Silverman's book Breaking the Rules of Watercolor.
This is the painting at around 75 percent. I found that the print on the giants shirt was really distracting, so I ultimately flooded that area and went into that area wet into wet. I also wanted to get a little more warmth in the painting, so I glazed over a lot of the painting with a warm yellow ochre color. Glazing with water color or gouache is kind of dicey, because you can go over an area and lift out something that you want to keep. When I drop a new layer of paint, there are a couple of things I do. First I let the whole painting dry completely. If an area is even slightly wet, When you glaze it with a layer of paint, you'll lift that area off. I also use soft brushes. I painted this primarily with Windsor and Newton Cirrus brushes, they are 100% sable (The only time I use a coarser texture brush, is when I want to lift paint out.). The other way that I try to ensure that applying glazes don't lift out color, is to be very gentle with the brush. I barely touch the paper with it and I only put a stroke or two down before getting more paint. If you spread the paint too much with your brush, your colors with be contaminated and the paint might lift off.
So here is the final product. Thank you for actually reading this entire post. I hope it was helpful. If you have a different way of working with watercolor or gouache, drop me a line, I'm always curious to see how other people use the medium.