process peek & piece preview

process peek & piece preview

Well, it’s shudderingly early, and even the stores aren’t touting it yet, but it’s true – the holidays are coming up. Let me be the first to apologize for all the songs that will inevitably be stuck in your head from the day after Thanksgiving onwards. But, I’m thinking ahead!

Little ole me has decided, what better way to share my art than with a little selection of original, snazzerific, greeting cards. The sketch sessions started about a week ago and I’ve been creating illustrations for the holidays, seeing as how they’re so close (psh.) Anyway, here’s the fun part for you visual creatures out there, you can see a cropped look at one of my first pieces in the featured image above (I’m Vanna White-ing right now as you glance). This is the special features section of the website, cause I’m going to let you in on a little of the creative process!

Here’s the loose sketch direct from my sketch book (you can see the snippets of another version cropped out on the left). “Hey,” you say, “that image looks blue!”, to which I reveal that I do not own a scanner. My “scanner” is my digital camera propped on my knees looking over the sketchbook which is on the carpet in the square of light that comes in from my office window. Necessity is the fairy godmother of invention.  Moving along!

I’m sure there is a very organized, natural progression for some artists with their methods of fleshing out pieces and refining them, but I’m an impatient person, so I tend to jump into what ever part of the process interests me the most at the time. In this instance I took the sketch straight to Photoshop and started to use the Pen tool like it was going out of style. In general I pick a darker color than what I plan on the fill of the shape or space to be and create a sweepy tapering outline, correcting and tightening proportions and the overall style of the scene as I go. It turns out looking something a little sloppier than this second image. Then I went back, and with layers underneath the outlines to keep things tidy, I placed in the color fills and added some soft contouring and cast shadows, and then fun little details like freckles and highlights in the eyes. Using the pen tool again, I went back into the little girl’s pj’s and added stripes, giving some more texture, depth and visual interest to the scene. Wanting to keep the style slick and cartoony, I treated the cat fur simply, merging the colored patches to one layer and mushing the color boundaries with the smudge tool. I find it to be very convincing and effective in conveying “scruffable fur fuzz”.

At this point in the process, my piece was fairly refined, and it looked something like this next pic. It had the look I was going for, but I wanted to add in some extra details. The composition felt a bit floaty, so I made a monochromatic backdrop of presents and a tree and popped them in behind the main elements to set the scene of a Christmas morning and ground the image. I added some shadows to the inside of the box and the tissue paper, and decided some air holes might be nice for the kitty. Leaving them off would be just plain cruel, and I didn’t want my drawn kitty to be air deprived.  They’d also serve as another visual cue that the cat was just in the box as the most super-totally-awesome-for-me?-present. The box was also looking a little lack luster, I decided to go whole hog and add some festive holly paper pattern I quickly slapped on with the wonder and glory of copy paste. The scene was giving me the appropriate “d’aw” heartwarming mushtacular feeling and with a little dab of shadows here and there, my piece was ready to be deemed “greeting card”. By me.

The end product looks a something like this last pic. I left out all sorts of frustrations that inevitably rear their irritation filled heads of the process, but you get the idea. So there’s a sliver peek into the how-am-I-gonna-make-this-work ethic of a piece brought to you by a special grant from the Becca Brain Foundation, and in part by the Inspiration and Creativity Fund…of my brain.


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  1. Vic Klein
    October 5, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Awesome! I am always amazed at the thought process creative people use, that was neat!

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