Playing with Watercolor
I had fun with this sketch of a flower. I used Holbein Watercolor Series Cobalt Violet. The pigment has a lot of texture. I added some cobalt blue at the tips of the pedals. It was meditative to paint, like a mandala!
I had a blast with this way of making characters! I made a shape for each head. Then started drawing around it to see who would come out. The characters each piped up with their name. And then revealed their little buddy! I learned this in a class with illustrator Sarah McIntyre at Curtis Brown Creative.
After I have my color and values figured out, I do a final detailed drawing that I will use underneath the final art.
Values & Color
Once I have the Notan figured out, I can move on to the value rough. In this piece I used 7 shades from white to black. From there, I can translate the values into color. This is where it gets really fun!
Notans - Fairies in the Boot
Once I have the thumbnail sketch, I can launch into notans. This is a black and white rendition of how the overall value pattern of the illustration might play out. I did four variations for this piece. Can you guess which one I choose for the final art?
Where Do Ideas Come From?
In this case, I had done a thumbnail sketch of a couple fairies playing in an old boot. I found it in a drawer and decided to pull it out and see what I could do with it.
I am excited to attend the SCBWI New York Winter Conference this year. It will be my first time attending this conference. Although I will not be able to travel in person to New York, I look forward to a line of great children's book creators and speakers! This will be a virtual experience!
I recently did new illustrations for my portfolio, using the 2019 SCBWI LA Conference Illustrator Intensive: A Modern Retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Here's How I did the illustrations...
Then slightly larger compositions from the thumbnails, of my favorite composition.
I then sketch the layout larger, to place all the elements.
I gather reference images which help develop iterations of the finish drawing. The final art size will be big enough to capture the details.
Sketching & Reference
Between each sketch iteration, I get feedback and critiques. My crit partners note the characters look too doll-like and need to be more expressive. So I do more research and sketching in my sketchbook and on my iPad. Pigs and bears! What could be more fun?
I revise the sketches with the new bear features and make adjustments to the composition to simplify the background and focus on the kids in the tub.
On to the Value studies.
I start by doing a black and white "Notan" with a thick marking pen.
Then I do some value studies to determine the light and dark mood of the piece.
Ok, ready to move to color!
Before I start painting, I try various watercolor mixes and blends, keeping notes to figure out how I will mix my colors and create a palette. I narrow it down to 13 colors. Is that a lot?
On my watercolor palette, I tape over the colors I will not be using, to force me to "limit" my palette. Sometimes I sneak my brush under the tape anyway!
I then do a small Color Study for the illustration, based on my value study and color notes. This is my favorite part of the process.
I keep it loose and impressionistic. I love these little gems.
I have to be careful not to fall in love with it, or I won't want to continue on to the next step...
It's time to to paint the finish illustration.
I transfer my final drawing on watercolor paper. Then I stretch and mount the paper on to board. This is my "transition" phase and helps me psych myself out to paint.
I go piece by piece, like a jigsaw puzzle. Layer after layer, pushing the values darker and the colors brighter.
I use my color study and notes as a guide.
I also use colored pencils to add texture and refine areas.
When in doubt, I consult reference images to help with tricky areas...
like the bubble bath!
Next, I have to Scan or Photograph the paintings into digital form. These finishes are too big for my scanner, so I photograph them.
I tape the illustrations to the side of my house in direct sunlight. I include a "grey card", to help with the color correcting in photoshop.
With Photoshop, I can make even more adjustments, but I try to limit them so I don't loose the fresh watercolor quality. Someday I'll try a whole painting in photoshop.
Goldipig and the Three Bears.
My ART WHEEL
I found this cool wagon wheel with clips. I hung it up on the wall and walked past is for a couple days. Pretty soon it occurred to me to use it to document and organize my art goals for the year.
Michelle Rodes is an author/Illustrator in Walnut Creek, CA.