Friday, April 26, 2013

How I work

I‘ve gotten questions about painting demos on how I work, but I don‘t have any of those yet. I definitely want to try that out though. While I can‘t show you right now, I can tell you about it.

Creating an illustration is fun. But it‘s also a lot of work if you want to make it any good. Most people don‘t realise how much work it really is. How much thinking and preparation is needed. It‘s really problem solving. You‘re solving problem after problem, trying to make things work. Thankfully it‘s a fun problem to solve and you can explore as you learn new things. 

Also, I‘m not talking about sketching, or doodling, or speed painting. I‘m talking about a story-driven illustration.

This check list is by no means definitive, especially when it comes to the design elements like characters and location design. In fact, it‘s more of a starting point. These are useful guidelines, reminders.

This is all common knowledge among illustrators. You learn this stuff in art school. You also learn the foundation stuff, which is the most important. Things like Analysis of form, Color and Design, Perspective, Figure Drawing, Still life Painting, Figure Painting, Landscape painting. Those are the Basics. Learn the basics. Master the basics.

So you‘ve practiced the basics? Alright, lets get to the illustration.


STEP 1. Rough Idea Sketches


·         What is the story?
·         What is going on in this shot/scene?
·         Who is in the shot?
·         Where and when are we?

TIP: Name your shot with a simple description of what you want it to show. For Example: „Dude fights a dragon“, or „She was lost in the giant library“. Then try to focus on showing that. This way the story becomes clear to yourself, and thus (hopefully) the viewer. CLARITY is key most of the time!


·         What is the focal point (area of focus)?  What is the secondary focal point, if any?
·         Is anything distracting or competing with the focal point?
·         Is the camera angle placed at an interesting and clear point of view?
·         Does it have depth? Foreground, middleground and background?
·         What is the perspective? Horizon line, vanishing points. Atmospheric.
·         Is it visually balanced and interesting? Rule of thirds, etc.
·         Interesting shapes? Show both unity and variation.
·         Does the image work as a whole?

STEP 2. Research

The research stage is probably the most under-rated among new artists. But it‘s super important. There is no way a single human can know instinctively how everything in the world looks like. You just can‘t. You have to discover how they look like by looking at them! Just remember: Don‘t use or copy other peoples art into your own, that is obviously bad. Do your own thing. Here are some things you might need to research:

·         Locations/Landscapes
·         Architecture
·         Costumes
·         Anatomy/Gestures/Poses
·         Whatever else you need

STEP 3. Drawing

After I get a pretty good sketch I usually blow it up and draw it bigger where I focus on the next stage.

Character Design

  • Can you tell who they are? (gender, age, race, etc)
  • Can you easily recognize each character in the shot? Clear silhouette?
  • Are they believable? Do you relate with them?
  • What is their body language communicating? Is the pose clear and dynamic?
  • Is the anatomy and figure drawing in proportion?
  • Do the characters work together?
  • If anything is foreshortened, do the angles and overlapping forms look right?

Location Design

·         Again, What is the story?
·         Where and When are we?
·         Is there an implied history about the place?
·         Are elements and objects supporting the story? Necessary or Distracting?
·         Are they detailed enough without being distracting?  Are the most important objects more detailed than the less important objects? Are details placed with rhythm?

STEP 4. Painting

·         Where is the light coming from?
·         What color is the light source? Warm/Cool?
·         Is there contrast in values? From dark to light?
·         What is the mood? Color themes?

·         Basic Painting steps:
1. Drawing
2. Block in Shadow side
3. Block in Light side
4. Add Midtones, Reflective lights
5. Details/Highlights

That‘s it. I hope you found it helpful! If you have any questions, go ahead and ask in the comments.

Good luck!