anatomy of an illustration

I love seeing how artists work, so here’s a glimpse into my process for all of you studio snoops and creative-process junkies.

See you later, excavator! is a commissioned illustration, and because the customer wanted the text incorporated onto the image and a finished image “like it’s out of a picture book,” I finished it in Photoshop, which is handy for this post, so that I can show you an illustration from start to polished-for-print finished. A lot of my work is sold as originals, and never gets surgically operated on in Photoshop, so this is a good one for show-and-tell.

Some of the tools I used:

  • mechanical pencils
  • Rexel Cumberland pencils: 5H, HB, 2B
  • my trusty Staedler mars plastic eraser … so much erasing
  • Moleskine sketchbooks (small one and big one)
  • design vellum (for tracing)
  • light table (the ever so useful light table)
  • Prismacolor Premier coloured pencils
  • Derwent burnisher
  • Micron Pigma pens (05 & 08, to be specific)
  • Pentel brush pen (decided against that effect … see below)
  • Epson scanner, MacBook Pro, Wacom table (WHOOT!), and Photoshop.
  • Strathmore Bristol smooth surface artists paper, 400 series
  • Scissors, glue stick, coffee &¬†McVities biscuits. Not kidding.

 

Phew.

First, research. Thank you, Google images.

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Very rough sketches in the little sketchbook.

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More sketching and messing about in the big sketchbook. Played with profiles, positioning, googly-eyes, expressions. Cut and paste, erase, erase, erase. Did I mention that I love my erasers? I have a whole jar of them in various sizes and compositions.

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Then out comes the vellum so that I can play with the final layout, and try out any changes I might make. For example, the crawler tracks were WAY different in the first sketches. This is when I tried out the ink brush, and decided that I didn’t like it for this illustration.

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Here is the completed rough sketch. This is when I test various colours, and get an idea of how the finished image will look.

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Then I traced the image onto vellum, and used the light table to lightly sketch the image onto the Bristol.

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Then I apply the colour, working from light to dark.

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Almost done. This is when I do the final outlining, if there is to be any.

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Hello, excavator!

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Scanned and opened in Photoshop. Adjusted canvas size, isolated the background, added text.

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Saved as a 600 dpi TIFF and emailed to the print shop!

excavator