Sunday, 12 February 2017

Whitney by the lake

Hi there blog watchers! You can blame the Where's Wally animated series and it's over-the-top narrator for me always opening posts like this.

Today I'm sharing my newest piece of work, done for the lovely people at Happy, a Sydney-based online music and culture magazine. You may remember them from my illustration of the band Cull, which I did for them way back in April 2014. They were extremely happy (pun intended) with the outcome and frankly so was I! This time I was asked to draw Chicago based indie-rock band Whitney. This time I'd like to share my whole creative process for this work.

This brief had the same requirements as last time, a landscape piece featuring the band that was otherwise completely open to interpretation. I was asked to include only Max and Julian in my illustration, as they are the official members of the group. Like last time it was to accompany an interview with the band and also be featured on the main page of their website.

As a first step with any work I undertake, the first step was research. I immersed myself in all things Whitney: I watched video clips, read reviews and of course an image search of the subjects themselves. As per usual, it's the visuals that often influence me the most, so their music-videos is where most of my inspiration for the composition came from.

Throughout my research I jot down a quick list of imagery and ideas I might like to include in the work, this helps keep my idea simple and focused, which was especially important given the short amount of time I had available for production. The notes for this work include:
  • Wilderness
  • Pastel colours
  • Desaturated colours
  • Roses
  • Autumn
  • Shoes and rolled up pants
 The next step is to start sketching! Although I mainly complete my work digitally these days, I still find pencil to paper my preferred method for getting my concept down. These thumbnails are usually pretty small, (about 10cm max) so they are usually very rough and basic. I'm concerned more about the composition than accuracy at this point. This is quite evident when you look at the final artwork below.

I decided I really wanted to include their feet in the image, as I found their boots with rolled-up jeans look quite interesting and unique. Given the limited size and orientation it was impossible to draw their full bodies, so I instead opted for a reflection in water. This allowed me to have a tightly cropped image, showing both feet and faces, as well as a great idea for the setting: Many images and particularly the video-clip of No woman feature an Autumn wilderness that really suited my idea, not to mention a great tie-in to their album title 'Light upon the lake'

When I'm happy with the rough I move onto Photoshop.

 I'm currently using Photoshop CS6, one of the last retail versions available before Adobe changed over to subscription-based Creative Cloud. Tablet-wise I'm using a Wacom Intuos 3 - Medium size. It's an older model, before the 16:9 Wide-screen aspect-ratio became standard, so it's active area (4:3) is slightly reduced to conform to my modern display. At times I do consider it might be worth upgrading to one of the newer Intuos Pro models.

Technical stuff aside, once in PS I draw up my thumbnail to a significantly more accurate sketch using a basic brush tool set to a lower opacity. It's quite messy, but you get the idea.

The rest is a fairly simple process, which I'll cover more in-depth for my next post.
  • I turn the opacity super low and draw up my final line-work.
  • I create a fills layer below and drop in flat colours, this can sometimes take time for me to get right.
  • I add a shades layer, using a fairly desaturated blue/purple set to multiply as this takes into account the base colours underneath.
  • The rest of the steps can very depending on the work, but this is when I usually add highlights and other textual effects. 
That's pretty much it for the process. Below you'll see the final artwork along with a couple of close-ups of Max and Julian's faces. You'll notice I flipped the faces from the original sketch. When I'd finished the final line work I noticed I forgot to take into account the mirror reflection in the water.

My original idea was to paint the background leaves rather than doing my usual cell-shading look, but unfortunately I didn't come up with anything I was too pleased with. I really need to work on painting, as cell-shading does have it's limitations for background work. It was a shame, but I'm still real pleased with the outcome.

Read Happy Mag's interview here.

Thanks for reading. I'll hopefully have some more work for you all soon.

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