I start noodling with an idea in my sketch book. Sometimes an idea grows into a pleasing composition and demands further investigation. This is the original sketch in my 3×5 sketch book. I scan the pencil rough into the computer, make a fast color adjustment in Photoshop and then open the image as a template in Illustrator for further development and inking.
As you can see the image has evolved from the rough pencil sketch. I got rid of the curtains (too fussy), added a tree and wood paneling on the walls. I fixed the perspective on the book and filled out the details on the worms and the overstuffed armchair. Normally this is the point where I add an Art Nouveau border. However, I decided it would be too much for this image when in its final size as a greeting card.
After finalizing the inking art, I change the colors to a sepia tone and print it out for color washes. I usually use a cold press 140 lb watercolor paper, but this image is going to be for holiday cards so I used a flat bristol board instead. In the photo you also see my palette, my paint box and all my “good” brushes. I use recycled Gatorade powder containers for water.
I start laying in the first washes of color being careful to keep colors pure and clean. I want this image to have a warm glow as if they are bathed in light. So I put in the highlights first.
I work all the way around the image to get a first wash on most of the image and then begin to add in darks to achieve a range of values. The darkest area in this image is the sky outside the window. It’s placed close to the area where the brightest area will be to draw the eye to the center of interest.
I keep going around the image, adding washes and values until all the areas have a lot of pigment and develop a 3D appearance. At this point, I make small adjustments by either adding a light wash or lifting areas of color that are too dark.
I remove the clips at this point and put my paints away. Using very sharp watercolor pencils I start adding details and shading. I concentrate most of this step on the main characters to add another level of depth and detail. I work on a small section with limited pencils at a time so I don’t get confused as to which colors I am using and in what order. I usually use 3 – 4 pencils for each section. This continues to add another level of value and increases the look of dimension of the scene. All traditional media is now done. I scan the image back into the computer. Most of my images need to be pieced together since I only have a small scanner. A large format scanner is on my wish list. This piece is 11×14 so I only had to make two scans.
I do my finalizing in Photoshop. After piecing the two scans together I import the line art file from Illustrator and use it as a Multiply layer above the color artwork. No mater how carefully I am in the painting phase some of the line work will need to be adjusted. I move back and forth between the line art and the color layers making small edits and adjustments until I am satisfied that the image will print out in a coherent image at the final size. The last thing I do is add my signature to the image. I save it in 3 files. One at high res, one at low res and one with my watermark in the lower left hand corner with a copyright notice and my web site url.