Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Explorer's Guide to Making a Cover: Part 3

See Part 2 here.

The Cover Painting: Preparing to Paint 

As I explained in Part 1 of this series, due to time constraints and other considerations, I decided I would draw and paint the cover illustration in separate layers, scan in the pieces, and use Photoshop to complete the image. With the drawing and color comps finished, next I needed to decide which creatures to group together for each painting piece. Those that were overlapping each other made the most sense to paint together.

I decided to paint the background, forest behemoth and flying fish as one piece which the other paintings would eventually be layered over.

Then, I printed the sand dragon, Marmoken warrior, sphinx and chimera on one piece of watercolor paper, and the Minotaur, crowned ibak and hydra on another.

The remaining creatures (the glass dragon, Paki, pancake glider, hook-legged bodeo, and lantern bat) would all be painted separately.

The following is an excerpt about preparing watercolor paper from my Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures manuscript that didn't make it into the book:

"When using gouache, watercolor paper is a great surface. Depending on your preference, you can use a cold press paper, which has more texture and is able to hold large amounts of water for very wet washes, or hot press paper which has a smooth finish but can not hold heavy washes as easily. This demo was created on 140 lb. Arches cold press watercolor paper.

If you have access to a scanner to scan your drawings and a printer that can handle watercolor paper, the easiest way to transfer your finished drawing down to the paper is by simply printing it! Consult your printer's settings to see what size, shape and thickness of paper your printer can accept. Another option is to take your drawing files to a local print shop to see if they can print it on watercolor paper for you. You can also transfer your drawing the old fashioned way, using a light box to trace your finished image onto your watercolor paper. If you're feeling confident, you can also start a fresh drawing directly on the paper you plan to paint on. In that case, no transferring is necessary!

Once your drawing is transferred down to your paper, it's time to secure the paper to a rigid surface for painting. Watercolor paper tends to buckle when a lot of water is used, especially at the wash stage. If you don't want to deal with annoying ripples and wrinkles in your paper, stretching the paper is the answer.

1. Prepare a rigid surface, preferably any type of board that can handle staples. If you can find a wood soft enough, you can use a light duty staple gun to staple your paper down. If you prefer not to staple your paper, you can also use brown gum art tape, which sticks the painting to the surface when wet. You must leave space on the sides of your painting when you use this tape, however. Because it sticks permanently to the paper, it must be cut off of the painting when you're finished.

2. Fill a utility sink, large basin, or even bathtub with water a few inches deep. Immerse your watercolor paper in the water for 2 or 3 minutes. When you remove the paper, hold it up and allow the water to drain off the surface. The paper should be thoroughly saturated after having soaked up water.

3. Spread the paper out onto your board and staple all around the edges, keeping the staples a few inches apart. Make sure the staples are close to edges of the paper, not in the actual image area of your illustration. You don't want holes in your final picture!

4. Tape off the edges of your painting with artist's tape, up to the borders you wish to define. This will give your painting a crisp edge and will avoid water spillage over the sides of your paper, preventing a big mess.

After your paper has been stapled down to your board and is completely dry and flat, it's time to start painting!"

Want to see this process step by step?
Then watch this excellent demo of the paper stretching process made by Terese Nielsen:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Link to the Past

A few years ago I accepted a project on which I worked mostly in my off-time...mostly. It was a project that unexpectedly spanned several years, much to the dismay of the small and dedicated group of people with whom I was working. I was happy with what I was doing, but incredibly embarrassed about the length of time it was taking me to do it. The project was a privately commissioned sculpture of Link (from the Legend of Zelda video game series) that would become a model kit for the group members' personal collections––not to be reproduced or sold.

When I finally completed the sculpture, I sent it to Joachim Höstlöf for clean up, and a few months later, I received my copy of the kit from the project coordinator, Derek Kan. I admired the excellent casting job, then carefully packed the kit pieces away in a box, hoping I'd have the time to put it together and paint it someday. 

Derek's kit was completed last December, and he's sharing the process of the sculpt's creation from its humble wire armature beginning, to its beautifully painted completion on his website.

The finished kit, painted by John Allred.

I would not have been able to finish the sculpture without the encouragement of the group, and definitely not without the help of Joachim, the very talented model builder and sculptor who made the beautiful shield and swords and prepared my sculpture for the the molding and casting process.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Explorer's Guide to Making a Cover: Part 2

The Cover Painting: Color Comps

It's hard to believe, but it's been a whole year since I last posted about the making of The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures cover. Whoops! Instead of making another massive post, I've decided to break up what's left into more manageable segments with the hope I can finish the series in a more reasonable amount of time.

In Part 1, I discussed the process of creating the drawing for the cover to The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures. Now I'll move on to the making of the painting.

First, I wanted to do some color comps. Since the creatures had all been painted previously for the book's interior art, I already knew what colors to make them. But I still needed to work out exactly what I wanted to do for the background of the image. I knew I wanted something simple since the focus is on the creatures. Additionally, I needed to leave some space uncluttered for the cover text. I also wanted a very colorful cover, so I skipped what would typically be the part of my color study process where I try to work out a specific color palette.

To do the studies, I printed several tiny versions of the cover drawing onto a piece of watercolor paper and blocked in the color quickly with gouache. I only painted the creatures once, painted a few backgrounds, and then scanned everything in and played with various combinations in Photoshop.

Study number two became the model for the final cover image.