21 May 2009

My crazy process.

I haven't done what I call a "big and busy" illustration in a while, especially one that required color. I always try to make my hidden pictures fairly busy, that way I have more places to hide objects, but this was kind of a new territory for me. This piece was done for Highlight's High Five, which is a magazine centered around early childhood kids. The illustration is very much in the vain of the "What's Wrong" back covers of Highlights for Children but this is an interior double page spread and goes by the name of, "That's Silly." Since the magazine is aimed at younger kids I had to make sure that everything was clearly visible and easy to discern.
If you're interested, here was my process making this piece...
It all started with some thumbnail sketches, of course. With the excellent help of the Art Director I had a clear idea as to what I wanted right off the bat and I was given some great examples of what other artists had done for past "Silly Things", so that helped me a lot with the overall tone and composition.

After doing some extensive research about which type of brownstones (aka row homes/town homes) I was going to model them after, I decided to take the easy route with my perspective. I drew the buildings straight on and duplicated the windows with Photoshop (PS) to save some time. The hardest part of making the windows was that brownstones typically have long thin windows, so I had to purposely make them much wider if I was going to fit some silly things within.

After taking the scans into PS and adding all of the needed windows, I used the perspective and distort transform tool to get my perspective right and added the details of the roof and the steps. The trick was to keep all of the windows (which would house most of the silly things) at least a half inch away from the gutter and the margins which was proving to be most difficult.

So I played with it- making the buildings smaller, adding another building, removing windows, etc. I also realized that the Ice Cream shop needed to be more of a part of the composition.

Finally everything fit seamlessly outside the gutter and the margins. The original concept I had was starting to take form. I was finally starting to feel like I was looking at a city street like in my hometown of Philadelphia.

I started to polish it up as more details were added...

The next logical step was to add the trees. I originally thought I'd have smaller trees (as you can see by the thumbnails), but part of what makes the older city neighborhoods so enchanting is the beautiful large Sycamore (a neighborhood without tress is just a group of ugly buildings). My poor planning had wasted time drawing the tops of the buildings since they would now be almost completely covered up by the leaves.

Roughly sixteen hours later and my stage was set and I could add the characters! I was given a list of specific silly things to draw in the windows but I had some extras so I added an opera singer, a cowboy feeding his cow some eggs, and a gorilla reading a paper.

Next was the outside characters. Each was drawn individually so I could move them around and place where I needed them.

Lastly, I added some fallen leaves since this was going to be published in the October issue.

At this point I sent the sketch to the Art Director and was told to change and add a few things. The opera singer was changed to a leopard playing a violin, a robot was added to to give sense to the remote controlled broom, a tiny train was added to the top of the ice cream shop awning, the yarmulke was removed from the man in front of the ice cream shop (not pictured), an upside down address number 45 was placed in the window above the door in the middle and the goatee was removed from the man flipping the pancakes. Also, although it is not in this sketch, I had to add leaves to cover up the branches in the top left center because it was too busy for the "That's Silly" logo to lay on top off.

Finally I did all of the inking. The background and each character was done separately for easier placement. I did the inking 50% larger to ensure that I could get in all of the small details. Using Adobe Bridge I made several scans and pieced it all together.

Using PS and a good Wacom tablet I colored in the background and the trees first (I forgot to mention that the tree on the right was going to have blue leaves and a pink trunk with white polka dots). I made my own custom brushes for the coloring and textures.

Then I colored the interiors.

And then the outside sillies.

Lastly I added the shadows to give more depth. At this stage I also showed it to several friends to see what they thought of the colors. I made some adjustments (already shown) and was ready to send it off to High Five.

As I said this will be published in the October 2009 issue so keep an eye out for it. If you'd like a subscription to High Five or Highlights, just click here. Kids love it.
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