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.
Michelle Rodes is an author/Illustrator in Walnut Creek, CA.