Saturday, June 6, 2015

Illustration: Gwendolen

I've been doing a series of black and white chapter illustrations for my portfolio, using Diana Wynne Jones' Charmed Life. This is the third one I have completed, but the first one I have blogged about. 

Here's the relevant text, from Chapter 8 of Charmed Life:

She was squatting in the middle of the carpet, beside a sheet of paper. At one end of the paper was a bowl of ingredients. At the other crawled, wriggled or lay a horrid heap of things. Gwendolen had collected two frogs, an earthworm, several earwigs, a black beetle, a spider and a little pile of bones. [...] 
Gwendolen began pounding the ingredients together in the bowl. As she pounded, she muttered things in a groaning hum and her hair hung down and quivered over the bowl. [...] Gwendolen at length sat back on her heels and said, "Now!"

She snapped her fingers over the bowl. The ingredients caught fire, all by themselves, and burnt with a small blue flame. [...] There was a fizzing, and a thick smell of burning. Then the flames leapt up, a foot high, blazing a furious green and purple, colouring the whole room with dancing light. 

Here are the steps I went through for this piece:

Step One: Rough Sketch

This is basically a thumbnail. For personal pieces I quite often dispense with thumbnails per se - I plan pictures out in my head while I'm walking the dog, and then do just one rough thumbnail to check that it works on paper. If it doesn't, then it's thumbnailing time! In this case, it worked pretty well first off, although originally I did have her squatting, but that was ambiguous with the shadows and not as aesthetically pleasing as kneeling.

Step Two: Draft Linework

Usually I will do this step in pencil, as I don't draw very well directly onto the computer - but I have just invested in a Wacom Cintiq Companion, and so I was able to do my draft linework digitally. I want everything to be as tight as possible so that I don't hit any snags while I'm inking. I like this sketch a lot! I think I need to do more pictures just like this - but as this image is part of a series, I couldn't leave it like that, I had to work it up to match the others.

Step Three: Tonal Study

I always do my tonal or colour studies on my draft, because I hate suddenly discovering that something doesn't work when painted while I'm painting. Here I just slapped on some rough tones in Photoshop. It's especially important to do a tonal study when the lighting is so strong and complicated!

Step 5: Inking

I print out my draft linework and use a lightbox to trace it onto watercolour paper, using a Pentel Brush Pen and technical pens (in this case, Copic Multiliners) for the smaller details.

Step 6: Painting
I painted this with black watercolour and black and grey Ecoline inks. My black Ecoline had decided to die on me, going very goopy and recalcitrant, so I was having a bit of trouble with it - because of that, I softened the edges of the smoke digitally after I had finished, as I couldn't get the smooth blends working in the way I wanted. 

As luck would have it, the twitter Colour Collective theme this week was 'Lamp Black'. I finished this painting on the Friday, and was able to post it for that! You can see all the Colour Collective pieces on the Facebook group.

Ink, Watercolour, Ecoline, Copic Opaque White and Adobe Photoshop CC

Charmed Life is copyright Diana Wynne Jones, this is a personal exercise, no copyright infringement intended

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