Tuesday, December 30, 2014


I hope you all had a lovely holiday (if you celebrate) and are having a happy Last Tuesday of the Year! I myself have enjoyed a luxuriously long week filled with several Christmas celebrations, Minecraft-playing, movie-watching, and book/comic reading.

Presently, my family is waiting with bated breath for any developments on my very pregnant sister, due to give birth to my second niece any day now.  While I wait anxiously for any news of contractions and water breaking, I will distract myself by continuing my "Two-Question Tuesday"series, the final installment of 2014!

If you have a question you'd like to ask me, post it as a comment below and I will answer it in a future post.

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What is your illustration process?

When I am working on a freelance project, the first thing I do is read the provided text thoroughly to get a firm grasp on the story. Then I read through the illustration notes (if any) provided by the publisher. Some publishers even provide very loose sketches along and the design layout of the project. I consider their sketches and begin thinking of how I can add my own ideas to what is required. Then comes the RRR Stage: I gather appropriate visual references, resources and research. As an illustrator I need to be adequately informed.  This part is critical to my process, especially as I am often drawing things I've never drawn before and may know nothing about. 

Once RRR is done, I start sketching. Very scribbly thumbnail compositions first. Once I get an idea I want to follow through, I may have to go back and seek out more specific references. This often includes taking my own photos of figures in the poses I need. Then I use the references to create a cleaner sketch that I can send to the publisher for approval. Most of the time these sketches are black and white line drawings. If I have enough time before submitting the sketches, I might do a black and white value study to suggest how the final rendering will look. And if I have a good feel for where I'm going with the images, I might submit full color sketches in place of black and white. I like figuring out color and value as soon as possible in the sketch phase as it quickens the pace for the final images which are usually (sadly) always under a time crunch from the publisher. 

Once feedback is received, I make any necessary changes to the sketches and proceed to final images. In an ideal world, I would have enough time to work on the finals relatively leisurely, say 4 hours a day until they are all finished. Usually this is more like 12+ hours of work a day. This is frustrating because the quality of my work goes down after about 6 hours of painting. So in the rush to finish, I actually take much longer. 
I don't have the ability to slow down the process to better work in a way that I find enjoyable. I'd love to have the time to paint each illustration in black and white first so that I can sort out my drawing and rendering without also having to figure out color at the same time. But since rarely do I get that extra time, I have to figure it all out AS I'm working on the finals. It's hasty, it's stressful, and usually results in a finished product that does not meet my expectations. 

As for the illustrating process itself, first I scan the pencil sketch or refined drawing and set that layer to "multiply" in my Photoshop file. On a second layer ordered underneath the pencil layer, I block out the overall values (or colors) of the illustration. I also add a third layer on top of the pencil sketch on which I paint over the drawing as needed. I paint using a custom brush textured like chalk. It keeps me from getting too detailed, so I will also use a separate brush for line work and any smaller details. 

Once the images are finished, I place them in the layout the publisher provided to see how they fit with the text and make any small changes if need be. Then I send the flattened TIFF files to the publisher and hope they get approved. Working digitally, it's easy to accommodate last minute adjustments but it's always a relief when they approve them as they are!

What do you hope to achieve by this time next year?

Hmmm! An appropriate question to close out what has been a lovely year overall.

By the end of 2015, I'd love to have done these things:
• Complete the rough draft of the first installment of my planned YA sci-fi trilogy
• Have three of my own picture book ideas in development
• Have a contract for a freelance illustrated a picture book
• Hold a baby lamb

Well, that's all for now. See you next year!

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