Friday, December 14, 2012

The Gifts of the Season: Step by Step

Happy Holidays! I hope you're all finding moments of peace and joy this season. I had a lot of fun creating my holiday card this year, and I thought I'd share the step-by-step process for anyone who might be interested. (Click on the images for a closer look.)
As always, I began with a very small, very simple thumbnail sketch of my idea.
Then I worked on creating a finished drawing, which I traced onto watercolor paper using a light board. My current favorite paper is Fabriano Artistico Soft Press, 140 lb.
Next, I did a value study on a printout, using a Wolff's Carbon Pencil.

Back to the watercolor paper. Now I did an underpainting of values using French Ultramarine Blue. (Sorry it's so blurry. The paper is taped to watercolor board, which makes scanning tricky.) Notice I left off the candy cane border. I knew I would be adding that as a layer in Photoshop later.
For the final painting, I used only 3 colors: French Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, and Cadmium Yellow. Though the penguins look black, they're actually a very, very dark purple. I did cheat once, using Viridian Green for the ribbon on the gift, because I wanted it to pop.
Now to make it snow! For this, I used a #1 brush and India ink, painting flakes on watercolor paper. Then I scanned it in and selected the background with the magic wand tool. I erased the background to make it transparent, and then changed the black flakes to white by using the brightness adjustment tool (under the Image menu). I then placed this layer on top of the penguin painting. I played with the spacing of the snowflakes by enlarging and reducing the layer until I felt it was just right.
Finally, I painted the candy cane frame on another piece of watercolor paper, scanned it in, selected the middle section with the magic wand, and erased it to make it transparent. This was placed on top of the other two layers. Viola! All done. Hope you enjoyed this peek into my process!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Loosening Up With Color

I know, I know, he should be doing Downward Dog instead of the Cobra Pose. (Click on the image for a larger view.) This is from an early reader chapter book I've been working on.  I'm really trying to concentrate on making my color palette more harmonious, which is something I struggle with. But I've found a book that's been super helpful.  It's an oldie but goodie called "Making Color Sing," by Jeanne Dobie.  One of my buddies over at PBAA recommended it, so I bought an old copy on Amazon.  (Word has it that the newer edition has lousy color reproduction, go figure, so if you buy a copy, make it the 1986 edition.)  The main lesson so far is to limit the number of colors you use and create your palette by mixing. So for this illustration the only watercolors I used are Rose Madder Genuine, Aureolin Yellow, Cobalt Blue, and Viridian Green.  I think these guidelines really help. What do you think? Do you limit your palette?