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...
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?
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.