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Last week I finished up the commission for Meg Rowe, her prize for the July Fan Contest. I shared some of the process on my Twitter feed, but thought I’d share it here too, since it can be fun to see how images are created.
She sent me reference for her characters and the setting — a combination of Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland — so the first thing I set about doing was looking up reference. I wanted images of big shaggy dogs, since her version of Toto is much larger than the hand-held version of the ol’ movie. One of the photos I found had the dog looking up at the camera. It was such a fun image that I thought, “why not make that the angle for EVERYONE??” Much photo reference creation and searching later, I had the lines for the characters:
I’d kept the vertical perspective pretty consistent, but for the setting I knew I’d need to put in a second vanishing point. This one on a horizontal plane. I set up some grids using a technique I learned from the book Vanishing Point: Perspective for Comics from the Ground Up. So glad I bought that book. Part of the reason I used to struggle with perspective so much was that it was never taught to me correctly! And I even took a drafting class in college (granted, it was for engineers, not artists, BUT STILL).
Once the grid was down, I could start filling in the setting. I wanted to use the iconic yellow-brick road, but I also wanted to pull in some other Wonderland and Oz elements. So on the right (Dorothy’s side) I drew poppies. On the left (Alice’s side) white (and painted red) rose bushes. With a little Cheshire grin incorporated into the foliage. I decided to make the flowers a tad over-sized as well.
Once the pencils were done, I scanned the image in, converted it to pale blue lines, and printed it out on cardstock to ink. This is what the blueline looks like in digital format:
I used brushes and India ink for the characters and some of the front vines. Here’s a photo of that:
For the rest of the image, I used Micron pens. They have less organic lines and variation, but they’re much easier to control for all the fiddly little details.
Then I scanned the image using the black-and-white mode, which doesn’t pick up the blue lines. I scan at 600 dpi, because I feel like the image looks better when sized down later. Below are the resulting inks I had to work with when starting on colors.
Next I added color flats. I try to use only a few colors when coloring illustrations. I find it helps prevent the image from getting too muddy or complicated. So for this I used an orange, a yellow, a green, a red, and a royal blue. Everything is just a different value and saturation of one of those five colors. For example, the red/orange of the poppies is the same base color as Dorothy’s hair and skin. The dog, Alice’s pants, Dorothy’s shirt, Alice’s hair, etc are all from the same royal blue. Colors closer to the viewer are darker and more saturated. Colors farther away from the viewer are lighter and less saturated.
Next is shadows. I used the same royal blue for my shadow layer. I did one layer that was a gradient. On top of that was a hard line layer of shadows. On top of that was a soft layer of shadows to draw the eyes to the characters a little more. The darker the value, the more likely the eye is going to be drawn to that spot.
On top of that I added in a warm yellow light. As with shadows, the more saturated and lighter value lights are, the more likely they are to draw the eye. I also felt Dorothy was getting lost a bit in the poppies, so I added more shading around her face to make her pop out as a light spot compared to her surroundings.
This is what it looks like with the flat color layer on, the shading on multiply, and the lights on normal. It’s very dark and the colors felt too cold. So I decided to add one more layer to warm it up.
On top of everything I added in a layer of red color, some of it brighter and some of it darker, and set it on Screen (Opacity at about 40%). This warmed up all the colors beneath it and colored the inks as well. This is the final version of the image!
I had a lot of fun working on this image and I’m very pleased with how it turned out. I hope you enjoyed seeing the process behind it.
And if you have characters of your own you’d like me to illustrate, I do commissions! Just contact me for a quote!