I just finished a sort of preview illustration for the next book I’m going to start working on (because five days ago I finally sent out my first manuscript of Bird and Sheep to an agent! And thus the waiting game begins), and as I was working on it I took a few shots at various points in the process. I thought it would be fun to do a little post talking about how I do a typical painting.
I am still learning (as is already obvious to any artists more skilled than I), but I have a repertoire of a few tricks that have served me pretty well!
I start with a sketch, and when I’m happy with the sketch it gets outlined in pen. My current favorites are the Pigma Micron pens I got in my stocking for Christmas! I have four sizes: from largest to smallest, I have 08, 03, 01, and 005. 005 is my favorite because it’s so TEENY and the end result is a fabulous amount of detail. The pens are great because they’re waterproof, so no worries about going over the sketch with paint.
I didn’t think to take a shot of the sketch before I outlined and erased the pencil marks… next time! You will also see the paper outlined in tape- this is Scotch low-tack artist tape, for holding the paper down to keep it from rippling when I start painting. I use gouache and water, so there is always rippling. The tape isn’t perfect, but it’s the best I’ve found so far. It won’t stick so hard to the paper that it pulls off a layer (that happened once with a different brand of tape and my heart jumped into my throat), but that also means it can get water up under and it and come unstuck, thus defeating the purpose. It works better than NOTHING, let’s put it that way. Another solution to the paper rippling problem would be to have transferred the sketch over from mixed-media paper to watercolor paper, but that would have taken like TWENTY more minutes, and who has that kind of time?
Next comes my newest toy- the masque pen. I found this randomly when I was at the art store for tape and somehow it jumped into my cart. What can I say? It’s awesome! It’s essentially a tacky glue-like substance that you use to cover any areas of your paper that you DON’T want paint on. Let it dry, paint as normal, let the PAINT dry, then simply rub off the masque and you have perfect stark-white lines.
It does occasionally leave a little residue, but very little.
In this picture you can see the meticulous outlining with the masque pen. I did this to avoid getting a million colors on the alligator as I painted the books. Just saving myself some touch-up time.
Now comes the fun part! The painting! Like I said, I use gouache pigment and water. I sometimes put the water on the page first and then add the pigment and drag it around, sometimes I mix the pigment and the water beforehand. Just depends on what I feel like.You can see that the paper is already rippling. This is partially due to the fact that I left this painting taped to my desk for three days, because it turns out painting a zillion little book spines is boring and I kept losing interest.
Finally finished with the books, and moved on to the alligator. I should have taken a shot of the masque as I was rubbing it off, but I forgot. Hindsight! I go over the alligator with a wash of yellow ochre, and then use the teeniest paintbrush for a network of green designs to indicate his scales and bumps!
A closeup of his bumps and scales, which I was a little bit proud of. I’ll admit it. I accent them with a darker green.
Finally, I add white accents to where the light might hit his creepy scales, and also touch up his teeth and claws with white. It all gets allowed to dry, and then every single line is re-outlined with the Micron pens again, for a cleaner look. I also add accents to the books on the shelves. I thought about adding clever titles to all the books, but I was afraid that the inclusion of words would make this already-busy page just a little TOO busy. I think I made the right choice. Lastly, a wash of gray for the background, which I end up hating. Ain’t it always the way!
Anyway, that’s what my process looks like for most of my paintings. I can nitpick about fifty things I would already change about this one, but overall it’s a fun look, and anyway it’s just a sort of motivator for me to get working on the actual STORY behind this sneaky fellow. Just you wait and see!